In this Disney romp, Oscar winner Cuba Gooding Jr. goes to the dogs. Ted Brooks is a successful Miami dentist who’s summoned to the reading of a will in nowhere, Alaska. It turns out that African-American Ted is adopted; even more shocking, his biological dad is a white guy (a fellow Best Supporting Actor Oscar winner, the indomitable James Coburn) named Thunder Jack. Ted’s deceased mom has bequeathed to him a round of shots, a cabin, and a sled-dog team. To show ornery Jack up and learn the true roots of his heritage, Ted hangs around town and takes up mushing just as the treacherous Arctic Challenge — akin to the Iditarod — is about to get under way.
In addition to Jack’s icy exterior, there’s much for heat-loving Ted to overcome: angry bears, M. Emmett Walsh’s one-eyed pilot, and Demon, the devious alpha dog who won’t accept Ted as his master. And then there’s Barb (an effervescent Joanna Bacalso), the one yokel who warms to Ted and offers a glimmer of romance. Directed by Brian Levant (The Flintstones), the film is an odd mélange of adult situations and cute doggie antics. The tender, burgeoning romance goes a long way toward cementing the plot, but what audience this film was intended for (kids, adults, families, house pets?) remains a mystery.