Review by Michael Jacobson
Cuba Gooding Jr., James Coburn, Joanna Bacalso, Nichelle Nichols, M.
Emmet Walsh, Sisqo
Director: Brian Levant
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1
Video: Full Frame 1.33:1
Studio: Walt Disney
Features: See Review
Length: 99 Minutes
Release Date: May 14, 2002
to Alaska. It’s gonna be a
scorcher today…expecting a high of 3 degrees…”
flash: Disney stabs DVD fans in the
back yet again! More on that
actually wanted to see Snow Dogs during its theatrical run, but never got
the chance. It seemed like an
appealing concept for a movie: one
of my favorite actors, Cuba Gooding Jr., doing a purely comic stint against the
beautiful backdrop of Alaska with a troupe of charming dogs as his supporting
cast. I figured those parts had to
add up to something pretty good.
Snow Dogs shoots for a very low target and hits it…how much praise does
that merit? Nothing was what I had
hoped for. Gooding, an Oscar
winning talent who’s proven his penchant for comedy in films like Rat Race,
is wasted here, reduced to mugging for the camera and Chevy Chase-styled
pratfalls. The dogs were wonderful
but grossly underused, despite being the title stars. Even the beautiful Alaska was actually the beautiful Canada
plays Ted, a successful Miami dentist with a practice that has to be seen to be
believed. But his world changes
drastically with the arrival of a legal notice about a will reading.
It turns out, Ted was adopted. The
mother who raised him (the elegant Nichols) never told him that he was in fact
the son of an Alaskan frontier woman named Lucy.
Now Ted must set off in search of his identity.
fact that he’s a Miami man going to Alaska is only the first of a long string
of fish-out-of-water gags. Cold
weather, strong winds and rustic living don’t appeal to Ted.
Even less appealing is the knowledge that he’s inherited his real
mother’s team of sled dogs…it’s instant dislike on both ends.
But Ted begins to stick it out…partly because he wants to connect to
the man he learns was his real father, a crusty coot named Thunder Jack
(Coburn), and partly because he begin to fall for the pretty local bar maid,
is pure Disney formula from start to finish…no surprises.
Ted hates the dogs, intermingles with them in series of comic mishaps,
learns to respect them, learns to control them, and finally becomes a good sled
man himself. There are even the
expected melodramatic slushballs near the end.
What was surprising to me was the lack of real laughs.
Most of the attempts at comedy were crude slapstick, which I like as much
as the next guy, but it only works in small doses.
There’s a reason most Three Stooges films were two-reelers.
sequence stands out above the rest: it
involves a hallucination Ted has while passed out, and it involves a clever use
of the dogs and an amusing cameo. I
will say no more.
is a good cast across the board, but it’s one of those sad cases where talent
is sadly underused. I can only hope
that the likes of Gooding, Coburn, Nichols, and Walsh had a good time making the
movie, because it certainly isn’t going to further their careers any.
if they had fun making it, at least somebody got something out of it.
Disney, why? No sooner do I heap
praises on you for your remarkable work on the DVD for The Parent Trap than
you turn around and offer another movie without widescreen presentation.
I guess I should be thankful that their usual scheme to make you buy a
disc a second time when widescreen TVs become the norm failed here…nobody
would want to buy this disc twice.
from the misframing, the video suffers from other problems, too.
Colors are generally very bright and show good tone, but there are many
noticeable instances of bleeding. Look
at Cuba’s orange coat and how the orange never seems to stay within the lines,
for example. Images range from
sharp to soft…background images like trees and such have very little detail. A bit of grain is apparent here and there, especially during
more monochromatic sequences…a killer for a movie with a lot of snow.
All in all, this is a poor effort, and the lack of widescreen seems to be
the best indicator that quality was not job 1 here.
audio fares quite a bit better, with Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 tracks at your
disposal. Some of the best scenes
involve the weather…wind and noise come at you from all directions, making
good use of the multi-channel format. Dynamic
range is fairly strong, and the .1 channel gets a fair amount of work from the
lower end of the music to action oriented scenes.
extras are good, starting with a commentary track by director Brian Levant and
producer Jordan Kerner…if you remember Levant’s commentary on The
Flintstones, you’ll know what to expect here.
He’s enthusiastic, talkative and vibrant, and about the best PR guy a
studio could have!
other extras include an interactive game that involves both trivia and action
(guiding a snowmobile), which I think is narrated by M. Emmet Walsh; I’m not
sure. There are three featurettes,
one on the dogs, one on the actors, and one on the fictional town created for
the movie, four deleted scenes, five extended scenes, and of course, sneak peeks
at other Disney titles.
the way, in some of the featurettes, notice how the monitors on the sets are
framed for widescreen? Tell you