Prayer Focus
Movie Review

Snow Dogs

MPAA Rating: PG for mild crude humor

Reviewed by: Douglas Downs

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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adventure / Comedy
1 hr. 30 min.
Year of Release:
Copyright, Walt Disney Pictures click photos to ENLARGE

Starring: Cuba Gooding Jr., James Coburn, Sisqo, Graham Greene, Brian Doyle Murray | Directed by: Brian Levant | Produced by: Jordan Kerner, Christine Whitaker, John Avnet | Written by: Jim Kouf, Tommy Swerdlow, Michael Goldberg, Mark Gibson, Philip Halperin, Scott Alexander, Larry Karaszewski, Philip Halprin | Distributor: Walt Disney Pictures

Don’t faint—Disney has begun the 2002-year in films with a Pro-Life and Pro-Family film in “Snow Dogs” starring Cuba Gooding Jr.!

Our story begins in the year 1977. Ted Brooks (Gooding) is with his dentist dad on career day. It’s a light and humorous moment between father and son. Fast forward to the future where Ted is now Doctor Ted Brooks. He has a successful dental practice in Miami called “Hot Smile.” While his father has passed on, Ted’s mother, Amelia (Nichelle Nichols) tries to help out the business by passing out homemade sugar cookies in the dentist’s lobby. (That’s got to help her son’s job security). But Ted’s life changes abruptly when he is served a legal summons to go to Alaska for the reading of a will. What our unsuspecting dentist does not know is that he has been adopted. Amelia never had the courage to tell her son the truth. His birth mother, Lucy Watkins has passed away and his adoptive mother must now tell him the truth.

Cuba Gooding Jr. in “Snow Dogs” Ted goes off to Alaska to find out about the mother he never knew. Once in Toketna, Dr. Brooks learns that—in addition to some property—he has inherited a team of sled dogs! They go by the names of Diesel, Scooper, Nana, Yodel, Sniff, Mack, Duchess, and Demon. Demon, the lead dog, is out to make misery for his new owner (as his name would suggest).

Not only is Demon out to get Ted, but a local named Thunder Jack (James Colburn) is attempting to obtain the dogs from our city slicker underdog. His intentions are to use the dogs in an upcoming local race. The story continues with some lighthearted physical humor and plenty of slapstick to go around. We watch our reluctant hero have his dreams turn to mush. But finding himself up to the challenge, Brooks decides he will try to learn the skill of driving a team of sled dogs. You can guess the rest.

This story is tender and uplifting. Dr. Brooks learns that his birth is the result of a one-night stand, but Lucy respected life and put him up for adoption (which is always a positive option to an unwanted pregnancy). This story is based on Gary Paulsen’s book Winterdance: The Fine Madness of Running the Iditarod. Gary wrote the book in 1994 as the result of his own participation.

Cuba Gooding Jr. did a good job pulling off a role that was originally crafted for Tim Allen. M. Emmett Walsh in the role of George was enjoyable as well. He was the pilot, Justice of the Peace, and the main town official. Michael Bolton even has a cameo.

While many critics will not like “Snow Dog” due to the plot flaws and somewhat targeted audience (family), I support this as a good family film. There is no language, no sex, and no violence. There is some crude humor, but even this is very mild. One scene of suspense may be seen as too intense for the very young, but all in all a very satisfying matinee. It is also worth a note of thanks to Disney. I did notice two characters that are never developed… it could be implied that they are gay, but I only mention that as caution of courtesy.

Viewer Comments
Positive—Overall, I would recommend the movie to anyone, especially children over the age of eight. However, I have to say that the fun part for me was AFTER the movie. The movie was a springboard for me in finding out about the real sled dog race, the Ididarod. If you think the movie was good, there are stories even BETTER that are told by real mushers who have run the “Last Great Race.” There are a lot of books out there and plenty of Web sites on the subject… The film also brought me back to an old favorite that now also has my heart: Balto. If for some reason you don’t think Snow Dogs is appropriate for your family, I highly suggest Balto as a substitute.
My Ratings: [Better than Average / 5]
—Jamie, age 27
Positive—I was really impressed with Disney take on this movie. A friend and myself went and saw this movie and really enjoyed it. I would go and see it again.
My Ratings: [Excellent! / 5]
—Dave, age 29
Positive—Just went to this movie with my 2 teenage daughters and my 3 yr. old son. Our main reason for going was to take my son, but I think we enjoyed it much more than him. I was disappointed (for his sake) that there wasn’t more action with the dogs. I had assumed that it was a story about dogs, and expected more dog scenes and antics. The plot was about Ted’s search for his roots, and the dogs were secondary. It was a good family movie, very clean (I recall a couple of slightly distasteful comments, but NOTHING compared to more of the movies out there). I have seen G rated movies more objectionable than this one. Overall, a touching story, good entertainment but probably won’t hold the attention of the very young.
My Ratings: [Better than Average / 3]
—Laurie, age 40
Positive—I enjoyed this movie. It was clean and fun for the whole family. I was impressed that there was even a line when the main character was in trouble, sliding down a snowy hill, he yelled out “Help Me, Lord!.” In another line he cried, out of surprise, “Oh my goodness gracious!” instead of the ever-so-common use of God’s name in vain we have all become so used to hearing in other movies. Some of the issues in this film may be sensitive to some viewers, especially if they are a child that is adopted, or a parent of an adopted child… But it all turns out well.
My Ratings: [Good / 3]
—Amy, age 32
Positive—I loved this movie! This movie was funny, goofy, touching. I left the theatre with a big ol’ smile on my face. The acting was good, and the scenery was BEAUTIFUL. The dogs were cute. The movie was overall a genuine family movie. I loved it. And if you are someone who is touched by adoption, you will be especially touched by this movie. I am a bmom, and the movie captured the feelings and “unspoken questions” of the adoptee, adopted child, and birth parents. Go see it!
My Ratings: [Better than Average / 5]
—Rena, age 36
Positive—I seldom if ever go the movies, simply because there aren’t any out there worth sitting through. I took 2 children ages 5 and 8 and we LOVED the movie. I would recommend it to all ages. It was refreshing that there was no bad language, sex or violence. I am not sure why the PG rating. Oh, if there could be more movies like Snow Dogs:) I have a hard time deciding who rates the movies. It is horrid how some come to the ratings they recieve. I want to thank the writers, directors and actors for this great movie. I definitely want to see more of this type:)
My Ratings: [Good / 4½]
—Marilyn Pinneo, age 50
Neutral—I went to see this film with my 11-year-old son. This movie would have been perfect if not for a the “slip-ins” by our typical media. In the beginning Ted, the main character, works in Florida. Throughout his time there we see, whether in the background or right upfront, women hardly dressed and there is a beach scene. I admit, this may not have bothered me if I were not with my son, but I don’t think so! This is SO typical it bothers me either way. Also, the woman in the film that Ted ends up marrying was extremely worldly. She is very aggressive, it seems Ted wouldn’t even notice her if it wasn’t for her aggression. She was a very bad role model for our girls and boys. She tells Ted in the beginning when he asks for coffee, “You can have anything your little heart desires honey.” It was a very intentional flirtatious comment that didn’t sit well with me. Why is it so bad to be a sweet young woman? I personally, would love to see that back on the Hollywood screen…My Ratings: [Average / 3]
—Danielle Kelii, age 38
Negative—“Misleading trailers may have led some to believe that “Snow Dogs” was a slapstick comedy about digitally enhanced, wisecracking sled dogs with celebrity voices who torment city slicker Ted. While this is partly true, the dogs themselves do not speak (except in a single dream sequence) and are digitally enhanced only for the occasional facial expression. But a deceptive ad campaign is the least of “Snow Dogs” sins. The film’s assumptions about race are outdated and borderline offensive. Not only does Gooding’s character assume (wrongly) that the only other African-American man in small-town Alaska is his father, but when he finds out that his pa is a “white dude,” both he and his adoptive mother (Nichelle Nichols) nearly faint. Of course, says his mother, this explains your love of Michael Bolton music (groan).”
My Ratings: [Average / 1]
—Alexis, age 20, non-Christian
Positive—This is a great movie that the whole family will enjoy. I was practically laughing out loud the entire time. But one must keep in mind, however, that although Disney claims to be for the family, they aren’t a Christian company and therefore, they don’t always toe the line morally and a few things push the envelope even in this innocent movie. For example, one reference is made to getting some “nookie” and there are scenes of women in skimpy bikinis, albeit brief, at the beginning and during the middle of the film. Totally inappropriate and unnecessary additions to this otherwise wholesome, entertaining film. And while I’m not one of the advocates for boycotting Disney entirely, I will say that as parents, we must actively monitor everything and, sadly, it’s no longer a given that just because it says Disney, it doesn’t contain anything offensive.
My Ratings: [Good / 4]
—Adam Brimingham, age 33
Neutral—The marketing for this movie was deceptive. From the 30 second ads it gives kids the impression that it is a movie about talking dogs. There is only one small dream scene (less than 30 seconds) that involves talking dogs. Most of this scene is used in the commercials. Using this technique you could sell Wizard of Oz as a movie about farm life in Kansas.
My Ratings: [Good / 3]
—Paul LaBrier, age 34
Positive—Snow Dogs is a wonderful movie, one of the few worthy of going to see at the theatre. Nothing in the movie offended me… One man got punched once. One man shakes his clothed bottom twice, Two young boys (seventeenish) have red hair and spikes in it. One comment is made about free spirits. The story line is regarding a couple that were together, but not married. One is no longer living. One girl in a bikini. (Very Brief) Several Kisses in good taste. One bar scene where a shot of whiskey is drunk. The setting of this movie is in Alaska with awesome scenes of snow covered mountains. The sled dogs are very entertaining. A city boy heads to Alaska to find out about his roots and ends up learning more then he wanted to about dogs. His adventures will take you for a ride. This movie supports honesty is best in the long run. Have a family night and go to Snow Dogs.
My Ratings: [Excellent! / 5]
—Heidi M Frawley, age 34
Comments from young people
Positive—I saw this movie in the theater and I had no clue what it was about. This movie has NOTHING offensive in it. It would be especially enjoyed by young children; teens or adults would find it childish or boring. If you don’t like your children watching “kissy kissy” movies, you might want to be extra cautious. They kiss maybe four times. There is NO cussing or sexual references whatsoever. It is merely about a dentist who learns to dogsled and deal with an evil Huskey dog. So go see the movie, BUT trust me, teens and adults will be totally bored.
My Ratings: [Good / 3½]
—André Teggart, age 13
Positive—I am glad there were no “talking dogs” as in the trailer. That kind of stuff ruins otherwise good movies. This movie was very funny. My brother and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
My Ratings: [Good / 4½]
—Mitchell, age 8