Leave it to Disney to justify a Michael Bolton-loving, poodle-hating, outrageously successful Miami dentist who goes dogsled racing in an arctic Nowheresville. Snow Dogs is a salsa-paced comedy about a big-city boy flung into a small-town wilderness due to unforeseen circumstances that flip-flop his squeaky-clean, nicely flossed world. It’s nothing you haven’t seen before, but this time the humor is self-aware, right on and well perpetrated by an unusually high-caliber cast. Don’t worry, they keep computer-animated dog-winks to a minimum.
Cuba Gooding Jr. jumps into the parka of the greenhorn protagonist-dentist Ted Brooks, who finds himself subpoenaed to the North. So long, Miami, hello, Tolketna, sort of an Alaskan Hooterville, a very white, very cold land of bad teeth and coffee the consistency of glue (nope, no Starbucks here). His wacky cohorts include the likes of James Coburn, singing sensation Sisqó, Brian Doyle Murray, Graham Greene (Kicking Bird in Dances with Wolves) and Nichelle Nichols, known throughout the universe as Uhura of the starship Enterprise.
Ted has a difficult lesson to learn when he assumes that a dogsled is just like a jet ski with fur. Lattes and cell phones don’t work so well in surroundings crammed with impossible physical shtick pulled straight from a coyote-roadrunner reality. But he perseveres and manages to find time for arctic love interest and occasional savior Joanna Bacalso, who slings slapstick well and shows promise (keep your eyes peeled for the sizzlin’ fur bikini scene).
Pairing heavy-hitters Gooding Jr. and Coburn is a surreal acting combination, but that’s what the story calls for, and these multidimensional actors give the fun in the film added substance. (Hear, hear.) There’s a kind of sick-silly satisfaction in watching two Academy Award-winning actors argue back and forth: “It’s nothin’.” “It’s not nothin’!”
This is definitely a movie geared toward the little tykes, but my advice to grown-ups is don’t fight them on this one — you’ll get some good solid laughs and maybe even some sentimental tears squeezed out of you, because Disney knows how to jerk emotions like an arctic dogsled team.
Anita Schmaltz writes about the arts for MT. Send comments to email@example.com.