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"Your mother ate my dog! - the girlfriend, Paquita. Not ALL of it... the boyfriend, Lionel, pulling the tail out of mum's mouth"  -from Peter Jackson's film, Braindead
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Dog hater Ted Brooks (Cuba Gooding Jr.) runs a well-heeled Miami dental practice. When his natural mother dies, Ted discovers he was adopted, and is heir to her Alaskan fortune. He leaves dog-day Miami for sub-zero Tolketna, only to learn his inheritance is a wood cabin, seven Siberian huskies and a border collie. His first instinct is to sell up to grizzly wilderness man and respected dogsled competitor Thunder Jack (James Coburn). But at the last minute he doglegs and trains the dogs himself for the Arctic Challenge. Along the way he befriends barmaid Barb (Joanna Bacalso) and comes to terms with his roots.

Review by Shannon J. Harvey:
It's hard not to like the perpetually vivacious Cuba Gooding Jr. Even when he's in sub-zero movies - and hey, his career has headed south ever since he snared the Oscar for Jerry Maguire - he brings such an infectious energy to his roles that you can't help but smile. And Snow Dogs is a pretty sub-zero family film built entirely, it seems, to entertain six to 15 year-olds or anyone entertained by dogs in sunglasses. And hey, the world needs more movies starring dogs in sunglasses.

Although this fish-out-of-water comedy does indeed go to the dogs, it has plenty of fun getting there. Artic blizzards, thin ice, crazy critters, life and death rescues and good ol' doggy humour provide plenty of slapstick hijinks, and Gooding has a wonderful time getting hurt for our enjoyment. But you can only flog a dead horse (or in this case, a dead dog) so long, and Snow Dogs does run out of steam in the climactic 10 minutes (perhaps 10 minutes should have been shaved elsewhere). Still, with great support from grumpy old James Coburn, Nichelle Nichols (Uhura from the orginal Star Trek) as Gooding's mum, and Michael Bolten (I'll let you see who he plays...) - not to mention the effervescent Gooding - Snow Dogs is bit a of a hoot.

If you take just one thing away from the DVD package - which is so chunky you could carve it - it's that everyone involved in Snow Dogs is insane. The screen-specific audio commentary features the producer and the hyperactive director Brian Levant, who is funny and engaging, and does most of the talking.

In the first of three featurettes, the 12-minute Going to the Dogs sees Levant admit to flouting the golden rule of filmmaking by working with animals and children and allowing up to 90 dogs and their individual handlers on set. The crew scouted the US for domestic canines that required - get this - a two-week mushing boot camp to get the dogs snow ready. Only in America. Levant's enthusiasm is matched only by Gooding Jr., who laughs about hiding meat in his jacket and being mauled by hungry huskies. There are cast and crew interviews from Coburn, Bacalso, animal coordinators, stunt coordinators, a bear trainer and director of photography Thomas Ackerman. The six-minute featurette Chillin' with the Characters reveals further insanity. Levant calls Gooding a "potent acting weapon", while Nichelle Nichols threatened producer Jordan Kerner during her audition with; "do this picture without me and I'll kill you." It's an amusing, interesting featurette, and thankfully lacks the usual actor/director butt-kissing. The third featurette, Tolketna on Ice, is a short on-location film. It looks at the purpose-built set constructed in Alaska, while the LA crew reminisce about blizzards, frozen eyebrows and working in minus 30 degree temperatures.

Ted's Artic Challenge is an interactive sledding game in which you dodge obstacles whilst on a snowmobile. Despite following the on-screen instructions, I couldn't get the sled to move. Others have complained of the same problem. Finally, there are four Deleted Scenes and five Extended Scenes. The first deleted scene called Show Me the Musing! is reminder that Gooding - while he could do so much better - is as content having fun as a dog with a bone.

Published May 1, 2003

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CAST: Cuba Gooding Jr., James Coburn, Sisqo, Nichelle Nichols, Graham Greene, Michael Bolton, Joanna Bacalso

DIRECTOR: Brian Levant

RUNNING TIME: 95 minutes

PRESENTATION: 1:85:1 widescreen, Dolby Digital 5.1

SPECIAL FEATURES: Going to the Dogs, Chillin' with the Actors, Tolketna on Ice, Ted's Arctic Challenge Game, Audio Commentary with director Brian Levant and producer Jordan Kerner, Deleted Scenes, Extended Scenes


DVD RELEASE: April 2, 2003

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