Cute dogs and a depressed society...welcome to Jamaica
OK, maybe I'm exaggerating...a bit. There is a decent amount of time spent on the efforts to form a team from dogs rescued off the streets and the stories of the people behind the team, but in the big picture, they serve mainly as a way for the film to show the troubles that affect Jamaica and the symbolic hope and public relations goal the team stands for. Several local experts get to chime in on how Jamaica found itself in its current plight, and the film puts you on the ground to experience the area second-hand, while the same locals talk up the good things about the country. Much like the Jamaica Bobsled Team before them, the mushers and dogs are ambassadors trying to spread the word about a land known mainly for reggae music.
On top of the dogs and the economics lesson are scenes from an animated Sun Dogs story that either the sleddog team wants to make or has made, and which somewhat mirrors the storyline of the real team. I would have liked to have seen more of this, as the animation isn't bad and the characters, a gang of anthropomorphic Jamaican sleddogs, are cute and pretty funny. Unfortunately, when you mix this light-hearted content with the semi-dramatic tale of the team and the serious plight of the country, it gets a bit uneven in terms of the storytelling, though I guess in the end, it gives the film some balance as well.
For a documentary, the film is very stylish and quite well edited, maintaining a good energy throughout, even when tackling decidedly unsexy topics like potholes and education. The film is particularly effective when it comes to telling the smaller stories inside the overall documentary. A crisis within the team, the history of sledding, singer Jimmy Buffet's involvement with the team...they are all neatly compartmentalized chapters effectively folded into one movie. It's just that this movie isn't the one the box seems to offer, one most viewers would want to see.
The sound is available in a Dolby Digital 2.0 track that does what it needs to do, presenting a strong musical presence and clear dialogue that helps make some of the thicker accents easier to understand. There's nothing dynamic about the mix, but you rarely expect a complex audio delivery from a documentary.
The third featurette is about two and a half-minutes long and has more info about the Jamaican dogsled team, updating on their more recent exploits. It's followed by "The JSPCA at Work" which spends about six minutes on the animal rescue group's mission and efforts. Each of the featurettes points you to a web site to learn more, giving them the feel of an "very special" TV episode from the '80s. The featurettes are joined by short text bios of the dogs on the team, which are certainly cute.
The disc wraps with previews of other Palm Pictures releases.
The Bottom Line