Snow Dogs

on January 18, 2002 by Tim Cogshell
   It seems that every superstar actor has a couple of Disney films to their credit--or debit--in which they face off against either children or animals. Last year, Bruce Willis managed to pull off a success with "The Kid," working with a cherubic eight-year-old version of himself. This year, Oscar winner Cuba Gooding Jr. ("Jerry Maguire," "Pearl Harbor") must corral a pack of Alaskan mushing hounds.

   Ted Brooks (Gooding) is an incredibly successful Miami Beach dentist. His face is on the side of buses; his mother (the ever-elegant former Lt. Uhura, Nichelle Nichols) adores him; and his practice partner (thong-songer Sisqo) idolizes him. Life couldn't be better. Then he finds out he was adopted. It turns out that his biological mother was the only black woman in some godforsaken corner of Alaska. He travels there to find his roots--and whatever else she might have left him. What he gets is a cabin full of hungry Huskies, and his father, a gruff old-timer called Thunder Jack, played by the very gruff old-timer James Coburn.

   The movie becomes a fish-out-of-water "Iron Will" meets "Cool Runnings" adventure in which Ted, who really doesn't like dogs, learns what he's made of by entering some "great mushing race" while trying to bond with his less than receptive dad. There's a lot of physical humor of the sort one might expect in a movie involving snow, ice, dogs and people from Alaska.

   Gooding mugs, and if one must mug, it ought to be in a movie full of dogs, so as not to be quite as annoying. The animals that make up Ted's inherited mushing team are beautiful and bright, and their CGI-enhanced facial expressions are so subtle they seem all the brighter. In the end, it's all very cute, though not terribly funny if you're more than six years old. Director Brian Levant is a veteran of such pointless but popular comedies as "Beethoven," "Jingle All the Way" and "Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas." He achieves equal distinction here. Starring Cuba Gooding Jr., James Coburn, Randy Birch, Joanna Bacalso, Nichelle Nichols, Graham Greene, Brian Doyle-Murray and Sisqo. Directed by Brian Levant. Written by Jim Kouf, Tommy Swerdlow, Michael Goldberg, Mark Gibson and Philip Halprin. Produced by Casey Grant and Jordan Kerner. A Buena Vista release. Comedy. Rated PG for mild crude humor. Running time: 100 min

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