Get the pooper scooper

Evil dogs sun themselves after eating Cuba Gooding Jr.

Evil dogs sun themselves after eating Cuba Gooding Jr.

Rated 1.0

In Disney’s latest, Cuba Gooding Jr. travels to Alaska, runs around with a bunch of dogs and makes himself a viable candidate for history’s most hellacious case of vocal nodes.

Snow Dogs is just the type of raw cinematic sewage we’ve come to expect in January, a prime Hollywood dumping ground. Oscar winner Gooding plays Ted, who spends somewhere in the neighborhood of 75 percent of the movie screaming his ass off. He spends the other 25 percent getting that very ass nibbled on by doggies. Hilarity on a grand scale.

The movie actually starts funny, with little Ted learning about dentistry from his pop and promptly vomiting into a garbage can at his first sight of a diseased mouth. The film cuts to years later, where Ted is grown-up, living the happy life of a dental mogul in Miami, his name and likeness plastered to the sides of city busses.

Ted, his assistant (the promising and funny Sisqo) and his mom (Nichell Nichols, Star Trek‘s Uhura) play off each other nicely during the film’s opening minutes. Unfortunately, the title of this film is not Wacky Miami Dentist and Friends, it’s Snow Dogs, which means Ted will eventually head north for the requisite snow and, of course, dogs.

Turns out that Ted is adopted, and his real Alaskan mother has passed away, leaving him an inheritance. Ted goes to the cold place, where he discovers that he’s now the proud owner of a pack of sled dogs, and those sled dogs basically want to eat him. So the film becomes a study in how a man manages to avoid getting eaten by a bunch of dogs. Thrilling stuff.

Did I mention that Gooding also falls down a lot? Sometimes he simply falls because of the combination of wind and ice; sometimes he falls because dogs are knocking him over; and sometimes he falls because his dog sled has gone over the side of a cliff. Think of a way a man can fall down, and know that it is in this movie.

The film piles on the useless sentimentality with the discovery that Ted’s birth father is crusty Thunder Jack, played by the ever-so-crusty James Coburn, an Alaskan townie who wants those damned dogs. The two don’t hit it off at first, but it’s no surprise that the film’s scribe finds a way for them to bond by the end. They finish a big dogsled race hand in hand, the dogs love Ted, Ted loves the dogs, Ted also loves his new daddy, and we’re in Hell.

Granted, the dogs are fun to watch. They are beautiful beasts, and they’re nice to look at. But let’s face it—you can get that satisfaction looking at a doggie calendar and bypass this film altogether. Don’t let the previews fool you, because this is not a movie about talking dogs. They speak up for just one dream sequence that features—holy shit—Michael Bolton. As if things weren’t bad enough, they find a way to drop that adult contemporary monster into the mix.

This film, and last year’s Rat Race, shows that Gooding has the goods for decent comedic acting. It would be nice if someone would find a way to surround the man with a film worthy of his talents. Director Brian Levant (both Flintstones movies, definitely a sign of trouble) traffics in clichés, cheap dog jokes and lame pratfalls to forcibly extract weak laughs from a mundane premise. To his credit, he avoids obvious opportunities for dog crap humor.

Then again, a good pile of dog shit may have livened Snow Dogs up a bit.