Australian Council on Children and the Media

Snow Dogs

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Parental guidance under 5

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Snow Dogs
  • a review of Snow Dogs completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 18 July 2002.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 5 Children under five might need some parental guidance.
Children over the age of 5 Children over the age of 5 should be okay to watch this movie with or without parental guidance

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: Snow Dogs
Classification: G
Consumer advice lines: None
Length 99 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Ted Brooks is a successful, entrepreneurial African American dentist. One day his life gets turned around when he receives a notice advising him that his natural mother has died leaving him in her will. Up to this point Ted had no idea he was adopted. He takes off to Tolketna, a small town in Alaska to attend the reading of the will and to discover his natural heritage. He is alarmed to find out that his main inheritance is a team of Husky sled dogs, one of whom named Demon, takes an instant dislike to him. He discovers that his natural mother, Lucy. was a well liked person in the town and had won a trophy in the Arctic Challenge, an annual event that puts man and dogs through their paces.

Ted takes up the challenge and is determined to master the art of ‘mushing’, that is, riding the sled that the dogs pull. This results in some funny and somewhat dangerous situations. Meanwhile Ted becomes involved with Barb, the local barmaid and with trying to discover who is natural father is. Much to Ted’s dismay, his father turns out to be a grizzled, white mountain man called Thunder Jack. Thunder Jack is not interested in gaining a father - son relationship with Ted, he is only interested in Ted’s dogs, particularly Demon.

The story goes on to show that through Ted’s determination he does manage to mush the sled team and more importantly wins the friendship of his natural father.

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is a bit of slapstick violence in this film mainly ‘accidental damage’ type scenes. These scenes are all handled in a very light and non-threatening manner:

  • Ted yells at the neighbour’s poodle to shut it up , when that doesn’t work he tips a bucket of water over it (to show that Ted doesn’t like dogs at the start)
  • Barb throws a knife at a dartboard narrowly missing a man
  • When Ted goes into Lucy’s house the Husky dogs start appearing from inside the house and they all set upon him biting his clothes
  • Once outside of the house, Ted peers through the window in which Demon’s snarling face appears
  • Ted is challenged to a fight with Thunder Jack with a knife or a rope
  • Thunder Jack punches Ted in the face when he calls him ‘Daddyo’
  • Ted is attacked by Demon when he goes back into Lucy’s house and Demon chases him outside and up a tree
  • The limb Ted’s hiding on collapses and he falls out of the tree
  • On Ted’s first attempt at mushing he is thrown out of the sled
  • While Ted is chasing after the dogs he encounters a grizzly bear which stands on its two legs and growls at Ted. The bear then chases Ted who then slides over the mountain edge but luckily lands on a platform. However the platform collapses under his weight and he lands on a frozen lake. The lake starts to break up and Ted goes under, seemingly drowning. He manages to escape however.
  • At the end of the film, during the Arctic Challenge, Ted rescues Thunder Jack and is taking him back on the sled because he has broken his leg, and the sled goes over the edge of the mountain. Ted and the sled with Jack in it are hanging in mid air for some very tense moments, but the dogs, in particular Demon, pull the sled back up on to the path.
  • Although Ted is in danger at times as mentioned above, the film is a comedy and the dangerous situations are made light of. Children under five may need some parental guidance, but children over five would probably not be too worried by the dangers presented.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

Children in this age group may be disturbed by the above-mentioned scenes.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

Younger children in this age group may be disturbed by the above-mentioned scenes.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

None of concern.

Over thirteeninfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

None of concern.

Nudity and sexual activity

There are a few sexual references in this film such as:

  • At the start of the film when Ted announces he is going to Alaska, his colleague advises that the only way to keep warm is by “getting nooky”.
  • Ted’s search for his natural father
  • Thunder Jack admitting that Ted was born due to a one off event with Lucy, when they were both sheltering from a storm in a cave

There is no nudity but at the start of the film girls are shown in brief bikinis walking along Miami Beach. Also when Ted nearly drowns and is probably unconscious, he dreams of being on the beach and Barb appears to wait on him in a very skimpy bikini.

Use of substances

When Ted arrives at the pub in Tolketna, everyone is drinking beer. When the will is read out a free round of ‘wild turkey’ is given.

In a nutshell

The take home message from this film is that there can be positive outcomes to adoptive family situations. Ted’s mother who brought him up still loves and cares deeply for him and he gains the friendship of his natural father.

Values parents may wish to encourage include are loyalty, friendship, determination, and courage.

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