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Film / Snow Dogs

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Snow Dogs is a 2002 Disney adventure comedy film directed by Brian Levant, with the screenplay by Jim Kouf, Tommy Swerdlow, Michael Goldberg, Mark Gibson and Philip Halprin.

Ted Brooks, DDS (Cuba Gooding Jr.) is a Miami dentist who discovers that he was adopted when he receives a letter informing him of the reading of his recently deceased birth mother's will, in Tolketna, Alaska. Once there, he discovers that he has inherited his mother's sled dogs, chief among them a temperamental husky named Demon, and is falling for Barb (Joanna Bacalso), the local bartender who was also a close friend of his biological mother. Ted must learn the trade or lose his pack to a crusty mountain man named James Johnson (James Coburn, in one of his final roles), who goes by the nickname "Thunder Jack".

The film also stars Nichelle Nichols as Ted's adopted mother Amelia Brooks, Sisqó as his adopted cousin Rupert Brooks, and Graham Greene as Peter Yellowbear.

Though marketed as a wacky talking-animal comedy, it's actually more of a story about exploring your roots, with some Fish out of Water comedy spiced throughout.

The film's story was inspired by Gary Paulsen's novel Winterdance: The Fine Madness of Running the Iditarod.

This film provides examples of:

  • Actually Pretty Funny: Lucy takes a jab at Thunder Jack in her will, leaving him her outhouse "and all its contents." Jack bursts out laughing and is joined by the other patrons of the bar, who immediately stop laughing when he stops.
  • Amazingly Embarrassing Parents: At the start of the film, Amelia, Ted's adoptive mother, gives Ted's patients sugar cookies.
    Ted: Mom, I love that you're involved in my practice...but you can't be givin' out sugar cookies in a dental office!
    Amelia: Your father always believed in the personal touch. And repeat business.
  • Amplified Animal Aptitude: Demon and the other sled dogs have this at times, like when Demon gives the others facial cues to have Ted thrown off the sled.
  • And Starring: The opening cast roll ends with "and M. Emmet Walsh".
  • Argument of Contradictions: Ted and Thunder Jack do this twice.
    • First is when Jack tells Ted to pack up and leave Tolketna. Ted responds that he's not going anywhere.
      Thunder Jack: You are a stubborn fool.
      Ted: No, you're the stubborn fool!
      Thunder Jack: You must have something wrong with that head.
      Ted: No, you got something wrong with your head!
      Thunder Jack: No, you got something wrong in your head!
      Thunder Jack: (laughs uproariously) No, you got something wrong in your head!
    • The second time is after Jack rescues Ted from the cold after he loses the dogs. Jack chastises Ted for his foolishness, and Ted reminds Jack that if he had told him what he wanted to know about Lucy he wouldn't have been out in the first place.
      Thunder Jack: There's nothing to talk about.
      Ted: It's not nothing.
      Thunder Jack: It's nothing!
      Ted: It's not nothing!
      Thunder Jack: It's nothing!
      Ted: It's not nothing!
  • Babies Ever After: At the end of the movie, Barb (now Ted's wife) is expecting a baby, while Demon and Nana the Border Collie already have a litter of their own.
  • Bears Are Bad News: Ted getting caught in a snowstorm and suffering hypothermia as a result is because he was chased off a cliff by a bear.
    Ted: (while running for his life) I can see the headlines: "Miami Dentist Eaten By Bear!"
  • Bedmate Reveal: After an intimate night in the woods with Barb, we cut to Ted in bed the next morning. He asks "So, how did you sleep?", and we pan over to see him sharing the bed with Nana the Border Collie.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Ted's birth mother had this with Thunder Jack, to the point where she left him the contents of her outhouse in her will, as part of a malicious final jab at him. Later on, Thunder Jack confesses to Ted that he truly loved her.
  • Beware of Vicious Dog: Demon. Until his sore tooth is removed.
  • Book Ends: The film opens and closes with a Dr. Brooks working in his dentist office. At the beginning, it's Ted's adoptive father; at the end, it's Ted himself.
  • Brick Joke: A couple of times in the movie, Ted is told that he should bite Demon on the ear to command his respect. Near the end, he finally does so—and Jack is surprised that he would be dumb enough to actually do so, suggesting that Ted was just being trolled.
    Jack: I can't believe you actually bit that dog on the ear.
    Ted: That's what everyone says you're supposed to do.
    Jack: Yeah, sure, but I've never met a man dumb enough to do it!
  • Catapult Nightmare: Ted shoots up in bed after waking up from a nightmare of him born in an Igloo.
    Ted: I'm an ESKIMO?!
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • The picture of Lucy with one of her dogs was actually hiding a picture of her with Thunder Jack at Ted's birth.
    • Rupert gives to Ted a thermal neck brace before his trip to Alaska; he later uses it to keep Thunder Jack warm in the cave and save his life.
  • Connected All Along: As is pointed out by several townspeople, who would have thought that Thunder Jack turned out to be Ted's father after all?
  • Daddy Had a Good Reason for Abandoning You: Thunder Jack didn't know that Ted's mother was pregnant, and neither of them was ready to be a parent. Subverted when it's revealed that Thunder Jack lied, and was actually present at Ted's birth; he and Lucy were just too independent of spirit to stay together and raise a child.
  • Danger — Thin Ice: After getting chased off a cliff by a bear and sliding down a snowy slope, Ted ends up sliding onto a frozen lake, which cracks beneath him and results in him losing his phone and falling through the ice on a sinking part of ice he jumped on to, whilst trying to get off the frozen lake.
  • Defrosting Ice King: Thunder Jack is initially very cold to Ted, but softens up over the course of the film, giving him pointers on mushing and even saving his life after getting lost in the mountains.
  • Do Not Call Me "Paul": Thunder Jack's real name is James Johnson, but he doesn't like to be called that.
  • Drench Celebration: Subverted when a pair of teenagers try to dump Gatorade on Olivier after he wins the race; the Gatorade had already fully frozen, so they end up dropping a block of blue ice on his head, which knocks him out.
  • Fish out of Water: Ted, a Miami dentist, is struggling to adapt to life in a small Alaskan village.
  • Foreshadowing: Demon is shown rummaging through Ted's stuff and comes across his toothpaste. Demon steps on the tube and squirts some of the contents on the floor, then licks them off. Later, it turns out he's vicious because he has a sore tooth, which Ted removes.
  • French Jerk: Olivier, the celebrity dogsledder has a French accent and is quite smug. He even eats before he feeds his dogs at Rusty Knife.
  • From New York to Nowhere: Ted goes from Miami (the most well-known city in Florida) to the small Alaskan town of Tolketna.
  • Global Ignorance: Amelia apologies to an Alaskan cab driver for only having "American money." Truth in Television, though it's become less common in the Internet age.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Demon has a short temper and is willing to bark at Ted's dogs to do things like throw him off the least until Ted removes his bad tooth.
  • Happily Adopted: Ted. He doesn't know he's adopted until he learns of his biological mother's death, but learning about this new family doesn't diminish his affection for his adopted mother.
  • I Choose to Stay: Ted ends up staying in Alaska with Barb and opens a new dental practice while Rupert takes over his practice in Miami.
  • Idiot Ball: Thunder Jack is portrayed as a hardened, experienced sledder, and tells off Ted for being a greenhorn. Jack, in an attempt to get ahead, stupidly rides into a storm. Suddenly, it's Ted who has to save his ass from trouble. Justified in-film due to Jack's desperation to go out on a high note causing him to do something he wouldn't otherwise do.
  • Jerkass: Olivier, the arrogant French sledder: The favourite to win the Arctic Challenge gets himself some food at the checkpoint before feeding his own dogs (for which the judges penalize him). Then he meets his karma by having a block of frozen Gatorade dropped on his head, knocking him unconscious.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Thunder Jack. He does care about Ted, but has trouble showing it as he doesn't know how to be a father. He also cares about the dogs and is openly contemptuous of Olivier who eats before he feeds his dogs.
  • Landline Eavesdropping: Rupert tries to eavesdrop on a call between Ted and his mother, but they both twig on immediately.
    Ted: Rupert, get off the phone!
    Rupert: I'm not on the phone! (winces)
  • Law of Inverse Paternity: When Ted first arrives in Tolketna to find his birth father, he develops mutual hate at first sight with Thunder Jack, who later turns out to be the father in question.
  • Love at First Sight: Ted and Barb fall for each other seemingly on sight. They're married and expecting a child by the end of the film.
  • The Men First: A sled dog variation during the race when Olivier gets himself some food before feeding his dogs:
    Jack: What kind of a man eats before he feeds his dogs?
  • Misplaced Wildlife: There are no skunks in Alaska.
  • Mr. Muffykins: Chester the poodle, who Ted utterly hates because he won't stop barking.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Barb. She is even seen in a Fur Bikini in Ted's hallucination.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: The trailer heavily implies that it is a straight-up comedy starring talking dogs. In truth, they only speak in one scene, and the entire scene is merely a dream. (Basically, it's like an Alaskan version of Kangaroo Jack, though unlike that movie, Snow Dogs was family-oriented from the get-go.)
  • Noodle Incident: When Ted is handed his summons, Amelia and Rupert naturally assume he's being sued, leading to this:
    Rupert: If this is about that Freeman kid, he's lying. [Beat] Okay, maybe I shouldn't have been drilling left-handed, but he dared me!
  • Rampage from a Nail: Near the end of the film, Ted learns that the reason Demon is so vicious is due to a bad tooth.
  • A Round of Drinks for the House: During the reading of the will, Ted's mother buys everyone in the bar a shot of whiskey as the last thing she bequeaths.
  • Same Race Means Related: When Ted is told his father is living in Tolketna, Alaska, he assumes his dad must be the only other black man in town. It turns out his father is actually Thunder Jack, who's white.
  • Shared Family Quirks: The fact that Thunder Jack is Ted's biological father is easier for him to swallow when he finds out that Jack cracks his neck and loves blue cheese just like Ted does.
  • "Shut Up!" Gunshot: When George tries to read Lucy Watkins' last will and testament at the bar, nobody at the bar they're in listens until he fires his rifle into the ceiling. At which point Barb yells at him to stop doing that because she just patched up the last hole.
  • Sled Dogs Through the Snow: As is typical for movies set in Alaska. Ted inherits a team of sled dogs and competes in a race called the Arctic Challenge.
  • Smelly Skunk: After going through a Humiliation Conga and finding a car buried in the snow, Ted has his dog team train by towing it. Unfortunately, he doesn't find out about the stinky stowaway in the back seat until it's too late... Nana (who was riding shotgun with him) jumping out and running away should have been a warning sign.
  • Snow Means Love: Ted and Barb's first kiss (and Demon and Nana's first show of affection towards each other) happens during a light snowfall.
  • Strong Family Resemblance: The photos of Ted’s biological mother make her look a lot like him, which multiple characters comment upon. In contrast, the only things he appear to have inherited from his father are a penchant for neck cracking and a taste for blue cheese.
  • "Take Your Child to Work Day" Plot: We first meet young Ted when his father, a dentist, brings him into the practice on Career Day and has him examine a patient.
  • This Is Reality: Thunder Jack tells Ted that they only say "mush" in the movies — because, of course, he's totally not in a movie, right?
  • Took a Level in Kindness: Ted starts the movie hating dogs, especially the one next door. His time in Alaska makes him much nicer to them.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Ted loves blue cheese. It's a trait he shares with his biological father Thunder Jack.
  • Truth in Television: The film is actually a surprisingly realistic look at life in a small, remote Alaskan town.
  • Unexpected Inheritance: Ted certainly didn't expect to inherit anything from a woman he never knew existed.
  • Vomit Discretion Shot: At the beginning of the film, young Ted vomits when he sees a patient's mouth, and it immediately cuts to an older Ted having fun in his swimming pool, 25 years later.
  • You Won't Feel a Thing!: How Ted, like his father, assures patients who ask if the procedure will hurt.
    Ted: A little. More than a tickle, but less than paying your taxes.


Video Example(s):


Snow Dogs

In this scene, Ted mushes with his team of Sled Dogs he inherited from his deceased mother. The film's plot revolves around the Arctic Challenge.

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / SledDogsThroughTheSnow

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