I have no vendetta against Disney. The first film that made me cry in the theater was Bambi, and one of the first that made me want to leap out of my seat and cheer was The Rescuers. Clearly Disney has had a hand on the pulse (if not an actual stent in the artery) of American Pop Culture for some time now. But by now the Disney product is akin to Monsanto engineered mono-cultural grain than a good old beautiful ear of Indian Corn (if you'll excuse the racist label) and I don't want to buy it. And when it comes to straight-to-DVD Disney product, 20 packets of Top Ramen for a dollar sounds more nourishing.
The Snow Buddies are five adorable golden retriever pups living an idyllic life in small-town Washington, enjoying their cozy lives and silly stereotypes. From the bling-wearing hip-hop pup to the princess puppy, most of the kid genotypes youngsters will identify with are represented. The buddies accidentally wind up on one of those commonplace ice-cream freezer containers routinely dropped into the Alaskan wilderness, and quickly find themselves shacked up with a sled-dog puppy and his boy who are just foaming at the mouth to put together a sled-dog team to win the local race and salvage their dad's ego from a previous ill-fated race. I'm not a rich man, so I won't offer any money to those who can guess whether this scrappy group of pups is able to get it together and win the race. Suffice it to say we'll all be eating Monsanto corn soon enough, whether we like it or not.
Aside from being utterly predictable and extremely cloying, there's nothing at all wrong with Snow Buddies. Previous complaints aside, my main problem as an adult watching this was that I didn't get enough of a view into the lives of small-town Alaskans, possibly the only thing that would have held my interest. But I'm not the target audience am I? Impressionable 8-year-olds will get their fill of that not-untoward message that positivity, effort and love will always out, but they'll also be force-fed a bunch of pretty bland, engineered crud passing as humor, characterization and plot - none of it slightly objectionable, unless you dislike the odd fart joke.
I'm not even going to go as far as giving a strong endorsement or rejection of Snow Buddies. And I'll tell you why. Snow Buddies is completely passable entertainment for your child old enough to sit through a feature film. Though worked over to a fare-thee-well so as to smooth away all burs of originality or challenge, its message is ultimately benign, and who doesn't love puppies? Even puppies who talk in obnoxious adolescent voices? It's a perfect film in front of which to plop the moppets, just save your sanity and sit in the other room, or at least have a goblet of chilled Pinot Grigio (yeah, I'm talking to you) on hand to numb the pain. But here's the trick, do not bring this into your home unless the kids request it. They'll let you know soon after if it needs to be a part of the collection.
A widescreen, 1.78:1 ratio presentation enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs shows the quality. You'll see every snowflake and whisker. You'll see too much. The snowy white color scheme is true-to-life, save for all the CGI snowfall added in later. No compression artifacts are present.
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound seems well executed and delivers all the audio thrills of a bunch of mealy-mouthed little puppies running around in the snow with perfect fidelity. French and Spanish language tracks are also included.
I've never been a fan of faux special features, but that is often what you get with the kiddie movies. And in the case of Snow Buddies, it's too much of a usually good thing. How about a feature-length Commentary Track featuring the buddies? Fictional dog characters provide very little in terms of behind-the-scenes tidbits, but a lot of stupid jokes. It pains me, but your kids might like it, or maybe they won't give a rip - kids don't always need the same stuff adults get with their DVDs. About three minutes of Bloopers are also of the mostly fictional variety. Again, kids will enjoy it, or the significance will be lost. A short Dogumentary (oof) gets into a bit of the reality of filming a movie wherein the principals pee on everything, but in that Disney-fied, kid friendly way, and an even shorter look at The Magic Of Visual Effects points out the many ways our eyes are tricked into thinking a bunch of talking dogs are pulling a sled through snowy Alaska. Worst is a Music Video from Hannah Montana star Mitchel Musso. I think the song is a funked-up version of 'Lean On Me' but my brain is struggling to reject it like an orangutan's liver.
Snow Buddies will probably thrill your indiscriminate 6-year-old; it's wholesome, entertaining and full of adorable puppies. But it might make you parents retch, so be careful, pop it in with the miracle of Disney's Fast Play - you can put it into the player and run. But remember, this is scientifically engineered entertainment, a bit pandering, cloying, safe and without challenge or real character. The bling-wearing pooch and a Wanda Sykes wannabe cat are the only edgy things in sight, and that's not saying much. If your kids ask, feel secure in going to Rent It, but maybe force them to watch an episode of Now with David Brancaccio on PBS to balance things out.
- Kurt Dahlke
~ More of Dahlke's DVD Talk reviews here at DVD Talk I'm not just a writer, I paint colorful, modern abstracts, too! Check them out here KurtDahlke.com