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Snow Dogs

  • compiled by Jeffrey Overstreet Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2002 1 Jan
Snow Dogs

from Film Forum, 01/24/02

Cuba Gooding, Jr. won an Oscar for Jerry Maguire, where his over-the-top enthusiasm won the applause of audiences. Since then, his enthusiasm has led him through a string of less-than-admirable films. Now he's playing a Miami dentist who comes to Alaska to claim his inheritance, only to find out that his inheritance is a bunch of temperamental Snow Dogswho aren't happy to have a city-slicker owner. While the distinguished James Coburn has a supporting role, critics don't find anything distinguished about the film.

Michael Elliott (Movie Parables) sighs, "Director Brian Levant simply is not able to lift this project above the mundane and at moments even manages to sink it a few levels lower. What is surprising … is the lack of definition among the members of the seven-dog team. With the exception of Nana (sweet and lovable) and Demon (mean-spirited and angry), the other dogs have no distinguishing attributes to separate them from the others."

"If Snow Dogs is supposed to be heart-warming and funny, it's barking up the wrong tree," writes Bob Waliszewski (Focus on the Family). "Objectionable material is infrequent and relatively minor. But an avalanche of sub-par lines and scenes, and supporting characters devoid of likability leave viewers out in the cold."

Lisa Rice (Movieguide) reports that the film is "cute, funny, and acceptable for all except very young children. My first-grade son, however, laughed out loud during much of the movie, and was never bored." She was also pleased to see yet another film emphasizing the importance of a good father figure.

"This is a fun, feel-good comedy for anyone who's a sucker for a cute dog story," says Holly McClure (The Orange County Register). But she cautions parents that children may be uncomfortable when they learn Ted was abandoned by his mother. "The overall impression left on a child could be that sometimes kids are an 'inconvenience' and it's better for them to be given away if the parents don't love each other."

Likewise, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' critic writes, "Although a few positive points are made about adoption and family love, the fleeting explanation that the main character was conceived from a one-night stand would prompt questions from children." He adds, "The slapstick comedy is only mildly amusing."

Douglas Downs (Christian Spotlight on the Movies) finds the movie "tender and uplifting. I support this as a good family film. There is no language, no sex, and no violence … a very satisfying matinee"

Similarly, John Evans (Preview) finds the film "reasonably acceptable," although he cautions parents that the film includes "one moderate and one mild crude word."

But Phil Boatwright demands more than an avoidance of cussing and nudity. "I love dog movies, but … I insist that they contain either the slightest bit of humor, outside the boundary of slapstick, or a sincerity to its life lessons. Unfortunately, I found that Snow Dogs had neither."

Mainstream critics offered a chorus of groans. Jamie Bernard (New York Daily News) sums it up: "A movie that opens with a boy vomiting, shown from the point of view of the luckless wastebasket, has nowhere to go but up. And yet, Snow Dogs pulls off the amazing feat of going downhill the rest of the way."