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  • Widescreen 1.85:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer ( 1:08)
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
    English, Spanish, Portuguese, English - Hearing Impaired
  • Deleted scenes
  • Audio commentary
  • 3 Featurette
  • Animated menus
  • Interactive game

Snow Dogs

Buena Vista/Buena Vista . R4 . COLOR . 95 mins . G . PAL


Ted Brooks (Cuba Gooding Jr), a second-generation Miami dentist, always dreamt of following in his father’s footsteps - well, except for that one year when he wanted to be the Six Million Dollar Man. He’s damned good at his job, too. Dispensing the family ‘personal touch’, his dental practice has become the most popular in Florida. But Ted’s idyllic life is brought crashing to the ground when he learns that he is, in fact, adopted. Called to snowy Alaska for the reading of his late birth-mother’s will, he suffers a crisis of identity. Maybe dentistry wasn’t his pre-destined calling! What would he be doing if circumstances had been different?

"He’s been hit by thunder. Twice!"

Arriving in the small Alaskan town of Tolketna, Ted finds himself heir to a modest house situated amidst jaw-dropping scenery. Deciding to stay a few days to get to know his long-lost mother, he quickly learns that he is not the house’s only occupant. No, there’s also his mother’s champion dog-sled team; and they’ve taken an immediate dislike to him. Thankfully a local dog-sledder - the gruff Thunder Jack (James Coburn) - has offered to take them off his hands. But as Ted finds more and more reasons to stick around, including a little romance care of the local tomboy bartender Barb (Joanna Bacalso), the dogs, and the town, begin to grow on him…

Like them or loathe them, the Disney corporation has created some wonderfully entertaining family films over the years. And although I was initially sceptical when the trailers did the rounds at my local cineplex, Snow Dogs marks a welcome return to form; a funny, heart-warming film that’s in some ways reminiscent of my all-time Disney-favourite, Cool Runnings. Thankfully resisting the all-too-obvious temptation that talking dogs would have provided (with the exception of a forgivable dream sequence) Snow Dogs is at times laugh-out-loud funny; combining your standard fish-out-of-water, journey of self-discovery and rom-com elements into a satisfying 90 minute distraction that the whole family (including the dog) will enjoy.

Indeed, despite losing the plot and descending into Disney schmaltz during the last 15 minutes, Snow Dogs works and works well. And the reason is simple: Cuba Gooding Jr. With his infectious smile, over-abundance of charm and a penchant for physical comedy, Cuba makes the perfect Disney leading-man. Indeed, his endearing and funny performance allows the audience to lose itself in his journey of self-discovery without the associated cynical baggage (in my case anyway). In this director Brian Levant (Beethoven) must also share part of the credit. Seemingly at ease with performing animals, he has created a film with over 80 canine performers (no, really!) without descending into Wonderful World of Disney territory.

The supporting cast is also uncharacteristically excellent. The rustically beautiful Joanna Bacalso and a satisfyingly crusty James Coburn supply the Disney quotas of beauty and beast respectively, with Coburn - providing an onerous foil to Cuba’s positive attitude and winning smile - in particularly top form. A host of other wonderful character actors, including the talented Graham Greene, also provide Tolketna with the obligatory collection of quirky faces that every Alaskan small-town needs.


It’s all good news as far as the video presentation is concerned, with an absolutely flawless anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1) transfer provided by Beuna Vista. Crisp, detailed and perfectly clean, the image displays no hint of the film-to-video or MPEG compression processes. Despite containing a whole lot of white, colours - especially the vivid blues, reds and yellows of Ted’s ski wear, and the pastel shades of Miami, literally leap from the screen. Similarly, skin tones are natural, and blacks are deep and solid. But it’s the detail that you really notice; never more evident than in an early scene in which the air is filled with the contents of Ted’s newly lacerated down jacket. Be it the spectacular mountain scenery, the shaggy coats of the myriad of dogs, or the infinite texture of James Coburn’s stubbled face, there’s detail to be seen in each and every shot, and it is all replicated beautifully here – right down into the deepest shadow. All in all a flawless job. And to think that region 1 suffered a sub-standard, pan-and-scan-because-that’s-what-the-kids-want release!


In terms of audio, Snow Dogs’ Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is a subtle affair which, whilst ably supporting the action, makes only limited use of the format - no real surprise given a limited budget, for-the-kids release. With lengthy sequences containing little more than dialogue, thankfully the film’s voices emanate clearly and distinctly from the centre channel throughout. When scenes take our protagonist and his friends outdoors, a modicum of ambient sounds – including lapping waves, seagulls, traffic, wind, and howling coyotes (when the need arises) - are delivered from the surround channels. While lacking directionality, the effect is a reasonably immersive viewing experience. But it’s not until, matching the action, the score bursts into life that the soundtrack really opens up; supplying a balanced mix that surrounds the viewer nicely.

Like the surrounds, the subwoofer is also used sparingly, but does add some welcome low-end to elements such as growling grizzlies, rolling thunder, and the throaty roar of Ted’s Porsche.


Animated, non-anamorphic menus provide access to a number of extras which, with the exception of the commentary, provide little re-watch potential.

  • Audio Commentary – director Brian Levant and producer Jordan Kerner: The guys talk continuously and enthusiastically about a film that they are very obviously proud of and had a hell of a good time making. They discuss all aspects of the production, from conception, through casting, working on location and the various performances on display. It's not the best commentary I’ve ever heard – the film just doesn’t support it - but it is really quite entertaining.

  • Featurette – Goin' to the Dogs: (12:13) Interviews with cast and crew discuss the problems associated with having 80-90 dogs (and their trainers) on set at a time, teaching domestic dogs and cushy Hollywood actors to mush and the matching of animatronic dogs to the real thing. This contains some reasonable insights into the making of the film.

  • Featurette - Chillin' with the Actors: (6:00) Interviews with cast and crew and footage from on-set provide a little information on the talented supporting actors that litter the film.

  • Featurette: Tolketna on Ice: (3:55) Talks about the construction of the fictitious Alaskan town, the selection of the site and the various problems with working in remote, icy locations.

  • Game: Ted’s Arctic Challenge: Drive a snow mobile along an icy course using your remote control. It's bloody impossible until you get ‘the knack’ and then terribly easy. Kids may enjoy trying to master it.

  • Deleted Scenes: Presented in non-anamorphic widescreen, we’re provided with four scenes that never made it into the final cut. There are a couple of reasonable gags here, but all the cuts were very obviously made for pacing.

  • Extended Scenes: Five more existing scenes are provided in their original long-form, adding a little more action, comedy or drama to several of the film’s key moments. Nothing special – there’s good reason why the cuts were made.


Despite descending into Disney hell in the last 15 minutes, Snow Dogs is a funny and entertaining family film. Although I was initially put-off by theatrical trailers showing huskies lying in beach chairs, wearing sunglasses and chatting, as usual those trailers were a gross misrepresentation of the final film. Cuba Gooding Jr is as likeable as ever, and his personality imbues the film with a warmth that will crack even the coldest cynic. Provided on a flawless DVD release from Buena Vista, I recommend you check out Snow Dogs for an entertaining night of family fun.

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      And I quote...
    "Show me the mushing!"
    - Gavin Turner
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Toshiba SD-2108
    • TV:
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    • Receiver:
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    • Amplifier:
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    • Speakers:
          B&W 602
    • Centre Speaker:
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    • Surrounds:
          JM Lab Cobalt SR20
    • Subwoofer:
          B&W ASW-500
    • Audio Cables:
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    • Video Cables:
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