Snow Dogs

The career of Cuba Gooding Jr. (Pearl Harbor, Zoolander) is beginning to lean towards playing the good guy. This good guy tends to be brash or headstrong, yet a decent guy underneath. He is usually heroic, and energetic. It's getting old. His role as dentist Ted Brooks in Snow Dogs is not a stretch for him, since it is the same role again. Snow Dogs is a generic combination of other generic stories; the fish-out-of-water, finding one's place in the world, and the inspirational sports story. This is really similar to Cool Runnings, which was also by Disney. The basic purpose of the movie is to provide family-friendly entertainment with a minimal amount of imagination, so on that level it succeeds. Otherwise, there is a fake feeling to most of the emotions (especially at the end) and some of the broad generalizations are almost offensive.

Brooks lives a comfortable life in Miami with his mother (Nichelle Nichols, Trekkies, Star Trek: 30 Years and Beyond) and brother (Sisqo, Get Over It, Annie Goes to Hollywood). His life changes when he receives a summons to appear in Alaska to claim his inheritance. His mother never told him he was adopted. His real mother died, leaving him her meager possessions and her champion sled dogs. Brooks initially wants to catalogue the items and leave, but a sense of belonging finally urges him to stay. He also wants to know his father, Thunder Jack (James Coburn, Monsters, Inc., The Good Doctor) and the gorgeous single bartender Barb (Joanna Bacalso, Bedazzled, Dude, Where's My Car?) better. This leads Brooks to experiment with sledding, something he has no experience with. He fails miserably, but sledding is in his blood, right?

Through computer animation, the dogs are able to wink, arch their eyebrows, and act mischievous. There are nine dogs, but only two, Demon and Nana, are on screen long enough to have any personality. This lack of personality goes for the characters. Barb is really pretty and really nice, but not much else. Brooks is nice to the point he is boring. Thunder Jack has some personality, but Coburn plays him so over-the-top (probably to amuse children) that he becomes a joke. Jack wants to exploit Brooks' lack of knowledge and buy the dogs from him for cheap. However, in true Disney fashion, there are no real bad guys in the movie.

Just when it looks like the movie is over, director Brian Levant (It's a Dog's Life, The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas) and the sled dog team of writers Jim Kouf (Rush Hour, Gang Related), Tommy Swerdlow and Michael Goldberg (Bushwhacked, Little Giants), Mark Gibson (The In Crowd, Lush) and Philip Halprin (The In Crowd, Windows of the Heart) tack on more story. Snow Dogs was inspired by the book Winterdance: The Fine Madness of Running the Iditarod by Gary Paulsen. This means that there were six credited writers, and who knows how many others putting this script together. On the whole, the resolution has a very contrived feeling to it. Still, they do manage to stitch together a mild amount of good feeling near the end. Whether it is because the script is actually good or the preceding bulk of the movie was relatively bad remains to be seen.

Haro Rates It: Okay.
1 hour, 37 minutes, Rated PG for mild crude humor.

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