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Snow Dogs

movie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Snow Dogs

Starring: Cuba Gooding Jr., James Coburn
Director: Brian Levant
Rated: PG
RunTime: 99 Minutes
Release Date: January 2002
Genres: Comedy, Drama, Kids

*Also starring: Jean-Michel Pare, Sisqo, Nichelle Nichols, M. Emmet Walsh, Joanna Bacalso, Brian Doyle-Murray, Graham Greene, Michael Bolton, Jim Belushi

Review by Harvey Karten
No Rating Supplied

In the animated feature "Jimmy Neutron," one of the kids, liberated from his parents, gleefully states that now "I can pee in the shower." The movie got a G rating. In "Snow Dogs," one of the eponymous characters actually urinates against a tree. Close up. The movie got a PG rating. In fairness that scene, which attempts to compete with similar ones in "Not Another Teen Movie" but comes up short, is not the only bit of humor that would not have passed the kiddie censors thirty years ago. Near the beginning of the story, the cousin of Miami dentist Ted Brooks (Cuba Gooding, Jr.), Rupert (Sisqo), is about to see Ted off to Alaska and suggests that he might be able to get some Nananookie! Other than that line, there isn't a heck of a lot in "Snow Dogs" for adults, no lines that might go over the heads of the target audience. But then you expect that from the director of "The Flintstones" and its lame sequel "The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas." Like "Viva Rock," most of "Snow Dogs" is one big cliche, featuring a plethora of pratfalls by Mr. Gooding--who's in virtually every scene, capitalizing on the famous screams he gave on the bus full of Lucys, though he's in considerably more danger here. About to fall from a precipe, he's saved by--what else?--the title characters again, led by the indomitable alpha canine, Demon.

There's little demonic about the story, in which director Brian Levant, utilizes a screenplay written by a committee and inspired by Gary Paulsen's book "Winterdance: The Fine Madness of Running the Iditarod" (about Paulsen's true experience in an Alaskan dogsled race covering considerably more distance than the Olympic runners). Its appropriately fast pace turns from time to time to sentimentality--giving kids the message that it's OK if you're adopted--and centers on dentist Ted, who runs as thriving a practice in Miami as Dr. T. ran in Beverly Hills or Steve Martin on his turf. When Ted finds out that his real mother has beqeathed to him her ample canine possessions in Alaska, leaving one of her former boy friends, Thunder Jack (James Coburn) "an outhouse with all its contents," he is takes off for a tiny Alaskan village with a one-eyed pilot, George (M. Emmett Walsh)--who reads the will to the entire community in the local tavern. About to sell all the Huskies and an Australian Sheepdog to the conniving Thunder Jack, he becomes attached to his best friends and is determined o learn how to mush and to help Thunder Jack--who is more than e originally says he is--in the annual dogsled competition.

With the assistance of some computer generation that allows these well-trained quadrapeds anthropomorphically to wink, to smile, and to batter eyes flirtatiously, the two men enter the race only to learn from their pratfalls.

All children love dogs and while they may pester their parents to buy them Alaskan Huskies or Malamutes or maybe even Australian sheepdogs, Mr. Levant discourages this by pointing out that these furry creatures need more exercise than they can get pacing a Manhattan studio. The movie, with a romance tossed in and some stunning scenery on location in the Calgary area of Canada's Alberta province, is good clean fun (though short on any sort of wit that Oscar Wilde might recognize), delightfully superficial, and highlights Mr. Gooding as a man who can play a serious American hero ("Men of Honor") and a comic of considerable talent with equal aplomb. Nebraska born James Coburn has lots of fun as well.

Copyright 2002 Harvey Karten

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