A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Snow Dogs is a farcical "fish-out-of-water" story that finds its hero, a Miami dentist, on an Alaskan adventure filled with exuberant racing dogs, an array of eccentric characters, and extensive amounts of cartoon jeopardy and pratfalls. Kids who watch this movie should be comfortable with the distinction between real and cartoonish danger, as some suspenseful scenes (a possibly tragic fall from a mountain road, then a character being suspended in midair) may be too intense for young or sensitive viewers. The hero is confronted by an angry bear and has numerous face-offs with Demon, who may or may not be a ferocious dog. In addition, there are countless falls, crashes, and scenes in which he is dragged behind a sled. A sweet love story makes its way through this comic mayhem. And, early in the story, it's revealed that, unbeknownst to him, the hero is an adopted child; fallout from this fact continues through the film. There's occasionally some mildly coarse humor (a dog pees on a tree), and product placement is profuse.
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What's the story?
In SNOW DOGS, Miami dentist Ted Brooks (an affable Cuba Gooding Jr.) is stunned to find out he's the heir of a recently deceased Alaskan woman he's never heard of. He's even more shocked to find out that the woman was his biological mother. Ted didn't even know he was adopted; he's been ecstatically happy with the folks who raised him. More surprises are in store for Ted when he arrives in Tolketna to claim his inheritance. First of all, he couldn't have imagined how cold it would be. And an inheritance made up of a cabin and a pack of sled dogs? Lucky for Ted, he's shown up just a short time before the Arctic Challenge, a dog-sled race touted by the residents as second only to the Iditarod. Between the eccentric characters who live in the city, a beautiful young woman who befriends him, a cantankerous old husky expert, and the upcoming race, Ted is up to his neck in snow, magnificent dogs, and an outrageous adventure.
Is it any good?
Don't expect clever or witty. Don't expect subtlety or nuance. Don't even expect polished filmmaking and performances. It's a slapstick comedy from beginning to end. Everyone plays it broad and one-dimensional. And, especially if you're a kid, it's very funny. Kids will get all the jokes, laugh at all the pratfalls. Some may ask questions about one live mom and one dead mom or be surprised that an African-American man has a white dad he didn't know about or wonder why Ted had to fall in love in what was otherwise a perfect trip to Alaska, but they will enjoy the movie. Dog lovers will not be disappointed either.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the term "fish-out-of-water." Find out what it means. Why do you think "fish-out-of-water" stories and movies are so appealing? Think of some other movies you've liked that use this concept.
At what age do you think you were able to tell the difference between real violence and cartoon violence? Use the example of Ted and Thunder Jack going over the cliff, and talk about why you knew or suspected they were going to survive.
All stories need conflict or discord. Since there are no true villains in this movie, what provides the conflict?
- In theaters: January 18, 2002
- On DVD or streaming: May 14, 2002
- Cast: Cuba Gooding Jr., James Coburn, Nichelle Nichols
- Director: Brian Levant
- Studio: Walt Disney Pictures
- Genre: Comedy
- Topics: Cats, Dogs, and Mice, Misfits and Underdogs
- Run time: 99 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: mild crude humor
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