Flea bait

Movie: Snow Dogs

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Our Rating: 1.00

Forget the dogs; who let this movie out? It's lowest-rung Disney, as mugged and pratfalled by a Miami dentist (Cuba Gooding Jr.) who inherits a team of incorrigible Alaskan huskies. Coveting these canines is a grizzled sled-race veteran (James Coburn), who also turns out to be -- ready, now? -- the biological father of Gooding's Teddy Brooks. Instead of enjoying a tearful reunion, Teddy learns to his sputtering outrage that his pop merely wants Teddy to sell him the dogs and split. The old poop won't even admit their familial bond.

If watching a crusty white codger deny paternity of the love child he sired by an African-American woman strikes you as the height of side-splitting family comedy, then this is definitely the film for you. Another "highlight" is the appearance of "Star Trek" cadaver Nichelle Nichols, who sets her phasers on Full Cloy to play Teddy's indulgent adoptive mother. Don't feel too sorry for her: After working with Shatner, appearing opposite a pack of dogs constitutes a step up. There are also peripheral roles for Graham Greene, M. Emmet Walsh and thong aficionado Sisqo -- who, as Teddy's dental assistant, opines that a trip to the frozen tundra may allow his boss to get some "Nanookie."

Not even the movie's title stars can offer respite from the bipedal imbecility. Director Brian Levant (a fur-fixater responsible for the first Beethoven film and the in-development "It's a Dog's Life") opts to disfigure his nonhuman cast with computer-generated facial features at almost every turn. (Their God-given, naturally beautiful expressions, one surmises, didn't properly advance his wacky aims.) Fans of such TV-bred tactics are conversely forewarned that the otherwise mute pooches' wise-cracking banter is restricted to a single scene already shown in the movie's small-screen ads and trailer. They got SAG cards for this?

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