Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Brian Levant|
|Produced by||Jordan Kerner|
|Written by||Jim Kouf|
|Based on||Premise suggested by Winterdance: The Fine Madness of Running the Iditarod|
by Gary Paulsen
|Starring||Cuba Gooding Jr.|
|Music by||John Debney|
|Cinematography||Thomas E. Ackerman|
|Edited by||Roger Bondelli|
|Distributed by||Buena Vista Pictures Distribution|
|Box office||$115 million|
Snow Dogs is a 2002 American adventure comedy film directed by Brian Levant and starring Cuba Gooding Jr. and James Coburn (in one of his final roles). The film was released in the United States on January 18, 2002 by Walt Disney Pictures. The film is inspired by the book Winterdance: The Fine Madness of Running the Iditarod by Gary Paulsen.
Dr. Ted Brooks is a dentist in Miami, Florida. Every city bus carries an advertisement for his dental practice "Hot Smile" with his picture. One day, Ted receives a letter from Alaska, naming him as the only heir of Lucy Watkins, a resident of the backwoods village of Tolketna. Brooks' mother Amelia reveals that he is adopted; Lucy was his biological mother.
Ted travels to Tolketna to claim his inheritance from Lucy: seven Siberian Huskies named Diesel, Mack, Sniff, Yodel, Scooper, Duchess and Demon, and a Border Collie named Nana. In Tolketna, he discovers his roots. Totally out of his element, Ted is confounded by blizzards, thin ice, foxes, skunks, grizzly bears, an intimidating, crusty old mountain man named James "Thunder Jack" Johnson, and the aggressive, defiant lead dog, Demon. All of this happens with the buzzing excitement of the Arctic Challenge Sled Dog Race, which is only two weeks away.
Ted tries to find out why he was given up for adoption, and who was his biological father. He meets bar owner Barb, a close friend of Lucy. Barb helps Ted to deal with the dogs and teaches him how to drive a sled, and falls in love with him. Ted has several encounters with Thunder Jack, who tries to buy the dogs, especially Demon. Barb tells Brooks that Thunder Jack is his biological father. Ted confronts Thunder Jack, who offers to tell the truth about Ted's birth in exchange for the dogs; Ted agrees. Jack takes Brooks to a cave out in the woods. During an Arctic Challenge, he and Lucy were stranded in that cave, and it was there that Ted was conceived. The next morning, when Thunder Jack woke up, Lucy was gone. He looked for her but never found her. Ted returns to Miami.
Thunder Jack adds Demon as lead dog of his team for the Arctic Challenge. Ernie has finished last in the last three Challenges, "winning" the "Arctic Flame" award as last "musher" to cross the finish line. The other mushers all camp at a checkpoint to wait out a bad storm, but Jack presses on. He is annoyed by the pretensions of defending champion Olivier, who is dining on crab legs in an elaborate tent.
In Miami, Ted recounts his experiences to his mother, who accidentally breaks a frame holding a picture of Lucy and Demon. This reveals a snapshot of Lucy and Jack with a baby. Ted is infuriated that Jack lied to him, and rushes back to Alaska. There he learns that Jack is lost on the trail, and the weather is too bad for searching. Ted decides to go searching himself, taking Lucy's dogs with Nana as lead. As he heads back down the trail, he nearly collides with Olivier, who wins the Challenge again. A few hours later, Amelia arrives and meets Barb. She learns that Ted is out on the trail, searching for Jack. The "Arctic Flame" is burning over the finish line, until the last musher arrives.
Ted eventually locates Thunder Jack in the old cave. Jack admits he and Lucy had been together at the hospital when Ted was born, and that he loved her very much; but that he and Lucy had agreed then that neither one of them were ready to be parents. Ted also discovers that Demon's bad temper was because of a bad tooth. He pulls the rotten tooth and Demon becomes more open and friendly (despite keeping his name). During the journey back to Tolketna, the sled nearly goes over a cliff into a river, but the dogs pull themselves back up. Ted finally brings Thunder Jack across the finish line. Ted introduces Thunder Jack to Amelia, and Brooks and Thunder Jack decide to share the "Arctic Flame" trophy.
Some time later, Ted has moved his dental practice to Tolketna. He and Barb become a couple and get married. She has become his receptionist and is pregnant, and Nana and Demon have four puppies named Avalanche, Little Aleutia, Chinook, and Demon Jr. Back in Miami, Ted's cousin Rupert (Sisqó) becomes the new celebrity dentist, now with his face on every city bus.
In some scenes, the faces of the dogs are partially animated to give them human expressions like winking or smiling. The animatronic version of Demon was created by Jim Henson's Creature Shop and performed by David Barclay.
The film's budget was US$33 million. Canmore, Alberta, Canada was used to film the fictional city of Tolketna, Alaska. The dogs D.J., Koda, Floyd and Buck also starred in the adventure film, Eight Below. Many of the dogs and mushers used in the film were locals. Two of the hero team doubles and all of Olivier's team were supplied by Nakitsilik Siberians of Bridge Lake, British Columbia. Mountain Mushers' from Golden BC supplied the Thunder Jack team. Old Ernie's team was supplied by Russ Gregory from Calgary, Alberta. Arcticsun Siberian Husky Kennel from Edmonton, Alberta was one of many kennels -- including Czyz, Snowy Owl, Gatt racing -- from the area that supplied background for the film. Two of the dogs came from Kortar Kennels, in Ontario. The animatronic effects were designed and built by Jim Henson's Creature Shop. The special effects were provided by The Secret Lab, the special effects division of Disney.
On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a rating of 24% based on 82 reviews. The site's consensus reads "A mediocre live-action children's movie, Snow Dogs is filled with cliched dialogue, tiresome pratfalls, and stale fish-out-of-water jokes." It grossed $115 million worldwide against a $33 million budget.
John Debney won the ASCAP Award in 2003 for the soundtrack.
Snow Dogs was referenced in the Gilmore Girls Season 2 episode, "Teach Me Tonight".