Snow Dogs

(Brian Levant, USA, 2002)


Going by the trailer, audiences might expect Snow Dogs to be full of dogs indulging in heavily animated facial expressions while giving voice to witticisms in the vein of the Look Who’s Talking films.


In fact, such exaggerated moments in the film are rare, and the talking-dogs scene is a brief (if delightful) dream sequence. But the rest of it is still a lot of fun.


This is the story of Ted (Cuba Gooding, Jr.), successful but unhappy in the dentistry job which his father groomed him for. Discovering at last that his real parents are elsewhere, he sets off for the snow of Alaska. His mother is dead, and his father is alive, but extremely aloof and, even worse, white. Much of the film is touchingly devoted to the slow, sentimental negotiation between Ted and his reluctant father-figure, Jack (James Coburn).


Apart from that, it is a fish-out-of-water comedy. Ted must learn how to dress for the snow, how to mix with the locals, and how to ride with the pack of dogs bequeathed to him. He even receives lessons in love and musical taste (the anti-Michael Bolton jokes, staged with the star’s complicity, are especially good).


Gooding is one of those actors whose energetic, rather self-absorbed schtick has made him hard to cast in the years since Jerry Maguire (1996). Director Brian Levant (the Flinstones movie series) has figured out clever ways to use Gooding’s mannerisms here, particularly in the scenes where he tries to ingratiate himself with the dogs.


Of these creatures only one, the angry leader named Demon, really emerges with a personality – so much so, that he manages to steal the ending from all the human characters.


MORE Levant: Are We There Yet?

© Adrian Martin June 2002

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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