Snow Dogs stars Cuba Gooding Jr., James Coburn, Joanna Bacalso and was directed by Brian Levant. Snow Dogs tells the story of Ted Brooks, a Miami dentist played by Cuba Gooding Jr., whose life gets flipped upside-down with the news that his biological mother just died and has left him a team of sled dogs in Alaska. Snow Dogs is one of those rare movies from my childhood that I haven’t revisisted since I became an adult.
In most cases, if I loved a movie when I was a kid, I either still watch it regularly or have at least seen it once or twice in the last five years or so. For some reason, that’s just not the case with Snow Dogs and this was my first rewatch in about fourteen years. Much like how movies, shows, and games from the 90s and early 2000s got me interested in extreme sports, films like Balto and Snow Dogs also got me interested in dogsledding. And while I’ve still never gone snowboarding one of these winters, I have had the opportunity to go dogsledding a handful of times and let me tell you, it’s not something you just pick up.
Sorry Ted, but you wouldn’t have even been able to get those dogs into their harnesses on your own. You know exactly the type of movie this is gonna be as soon as the opening credits start to roll. In every name, letters have been swapped out for wingding style images: doghouses in place of As, paw prints instead of Os, and dog bones for Is. There’s no doubt that this film is clearly geared towards kids and watching it again now, I can see why I liked it so much back when I was one. It’s got an extremely emphasized fish-out-of-water story, quite a bit of physical comedy, and, of course, dogs.
The dogs were great back then and they’re still great now. Especially Nana. So, does Snow Dogs hold up? Sort of. Even though nostalgia definitely has some influence here for me, there are still aspects of it that are kinda disappointing to me now. A lot of the physical comedy doesn’t hit like it did when I was a kid. So by the third time Ted was getting dragged around by the dogs or the fourth time somebody slips on ice, I just wasn’t all that invested. Also, Sisqo’s character is entirely unnecessary.
He’s there purely as comedic relief that ends up not being relief at all. I was trying to think of a witty one-liner that combined both novocain and thongs, but I couldn’t come up with anything. Sorry so, I’ll make a nice lame reference to one of this movie’s repeated quotes instead and say that Sisqo’s character hurts more than a tickle AND more than paying your taxes. That’s not to say all the comedy is bad as an adult though. I still very much enjoyed the interactions with the townspeople and many of the little moments are still great, even silly stuff like Nana doing the neck crack. But, as an adult, it’s not really the comedy that resonates with me on this one anymore.
Instead, the central story and emotional core of the film is pretty sincere and a unique take on the idea of discovering one’s own roots. I’m always a little surprised when I watch a movie like this and can remember all the scenes and little details right before they happen: the Beetle dogsled, the tree dodging sequence with Ted saying what every audience member is thinking ñ ìThis is insane!î, his eyeroll when his mom drops and breaks the picture frame, the cookie tin rolling through the snow, the ear bite.
I mean, I have a really good memory, but the last time I saw this movie was literally half of my life ago. So I never quite know if that means I really connected with a movie when I was younger or if I just watched it far too many times as a kid. Probably a bit of both. Alright, let’s talk about the pros and cons. Really the only non-nostalgia influenced pro here is the story. Despite its by-the-books trappings as a fish-out-of-water tale, the premise is actually pretty unique.
Dogsledding isn’t exactly a common film topic, which separates this movie to begin with, but then you mix in the adoption subplot and all the revelations that come along with it and you end up with a surprisingly unique and heartfelt story underneath the thick coating of dumb humor. It also doesn’t hurt that Ted actually has a true character arc, which is nice to see in a story like this. As far as cons go, Snow Dogs has a number of issues. Rewatching it, I found my biggest problem with it was the slapstick physical comedy. A little bit sprinkled here and there would be fine, but they just keep piling it on and repeating gags to the point that they’re more boring than funny.
Kids will probably still get a kick out of them, but all the physical comedy gags got old pretty quick for me. I’m sure people who didn’t grow up with the movie will be able to find a lot more cons, but the only other major thing that was noticeably subpar here for me was the dialogue. Not all of it’s bad. In fact there were some pretty good lines ìTo Thunder Jack, I leave my outhouse and all its contents.î. But a lot of the dialogue between Ted and Barb and Ted and his adoptive mother Amelia comes across as pretty stilted. So, I want to tell you guys one personal story related to this movie for me.
A few years ago, I went to the first annual Bangor Comic and Toy Convention and one of the special guests was Nichelle Nichols. Of course everybody there was clamoring to talk to her cause of her role on Star Trek as Lieutenant Uhura. But, to be completely honest, I still have yet to see more than a stray episode or two of Star Trek, so when I finally got a chance to talk to her, I introduced myself and said that my favorite role of hers was Amelia from Snow Dogs. And she looked a little surprised and kinda confused for a second, but then she smiled and said that I was the first person to mention that movie to her in a long time. And she didn’t say it, but I kinda got the sense that she was glad somebody remembered her from something other than Star Trek.
Before I give you my rating and recommendations, I want to remind you that if you’re interested in buying Snow Dogs or any of the other films I mention today, I do have affiliate links for all of them in the description below. I get a small commission from anything you buy using one of my links, so I’d really appreciate if you’d use them if you’re in the market for any of these movies. I’m gonna give Snow Dogs 3 out of 5 paws.
Now I know what you’re thinking you’re only giving it that high of a rating because of nostalgia. I’m not gonna completely deny it cause I’m sure it did have some influence, but if you asked 12 year old me to rate this, I probably would’ve given it a 4.5 so take from that what you will. I would recommend Snow Dogs primarily to people with kids. I think kids up to maybe 12 or 13, who like animals, will still get a kick out of this one. Adults coming into this as a first-time watch likely won’t get too much enjoyment out of it beyond thinking it’s okay for a kid’s movie, but if this is one you used to watch as a kid, give it another shot. It likely won’t be as good as you remembered, but it’ll still be a nice little dose of nostalgia. If you liked Snow Dogs, I would definitely recommend Balto as another, more superior, dogsled family film with some great animation and a really heartfelt story.
If you want another good dogsled option, you might want to check out Eight Below for something with a slightly more serious tone. And, if you want another early 2000s animal-based film with somewhat similar comedy to Snow Dogs, check out Cats & Dogs. Alright, a few questions for you guys. Number one: Have you seen Snow Dogs? If so, what’d you think of it? And number two: What’s your favorite movie featuring a dentist as a main character? Bet you thought I was gonna ask about dogsledding movies, didn’t you? Be sure to leave your answers in the comments below so we can get a discussion going.