RATED: NR (TV)
RUNNING TIME: 90 min
It’s like Cool Runnings, but set in Jamaica.
Jimmy Buffett, Devon Anderson, Newton Marshall, Smiley, Bruno
When Tutley said he was going for a ride with his bitches, he wasn’t always lying.
A rag-tag team of dog-loving Jamaicans puts together the world’s first Jamaican dog sledding team. The road to victory won’t be an easy one, as the team has to gather both talented dogs and mushers in a country that’s not necessarily known for its sledding talent. Chronicling the lives of the humans and canines of Jamaican dog sledding, Sun Dogs is an "inspirational dog-u-mentary" that finally answers the age-old question: "Can someone talk about Jamaica without making or alluding to the "Jamaican me crazy!" pun? Don’t cheat and look at the screen cap at the bottom of the page, jerks!
"I thought this documentary was supposed to be about the sled dogs. Why do you keep asking me about ‘eyebrow sideburns?‘"
It’s hard to go wrong with a movie about dogs. Dogs are hard to dislike. Unlike cats and chimps, who are notorious for their hatred of all things human, dogs seem to always look up to us; they’re always up for a jog or a drive, and they’re always there to greet us when we get home. Putting dogs in your film is a lot like putting marshmallows in your hot cocoa.
The biggest problem with Sun Dogs is that the dogs aren’t really there.
The box art features lots of dogs, and the back of the box tells us that we’ll have a "dog-tacular time", but throughout the film’s 90 minutes, I think we get about ten minutes of dog time. Most of Sun Dogs‘ running time is spent showing us how heartbreakingly impoverished Jamaica is, or letting the mushers, handlers, producers, and other assorted talking heads wax about the unfortunate plight of modern Jamaica. There are a few moments in the beginning that show us the sled dogs dragging around gallon jugs of water in preparation for the big day, and a few nice "getting to meet the dogs" moments (which are given the freeze-frame Scorsese treatment- there’s a dog named Cookie Two-Times, and it’s revealed that he got the "Two-Times" moniker because he always licks his balls twice). But aside from that, the proceedings are largely dog-free.
Dr. PepperSniffer was a very sweet dog, although recently he’d developed the bad habit of sneaking up on people and attacking the living shit out of them.
It’s not that I didn’t want to hear about the plight of modern Jamaica, including its astronomical crime rate, crippled and mismanaged government, or broken education system. It’s just that it doesn’t serve Sun Dogs well at all. If Sun Dogs were 80% dog and 20% plight, that would have been fine- I wouldn’t want any documentary about Jamaica to gloss over its problems, as that would have been grossly disingenuous. Dogs has these stats reversed, and it really makes the film far more heavy than it should have been.
To illustrate this, here’s the structure of Dogs‘ middle act: We follow Newton, a struggling Jamaican youth, as he processes his passport to travel to Minnesota, where he’ll learn the basics of dog sledding. He’s being groomed to work with and ultimately take the place of Devon, the team leader and head musher. After working with trainers in Minnesota, Newton returns to Jamaica, where we watch him struggle at home and in school. He then steals a car and goes for a joyride, after which he’s booted from the team. Newton obviously has a terribly difficult life, but it steals the focus of the documentary. It delivers some drama, but this is a SLED DOG MOVIE, for God’s sake.
If that weren’t bad enough, the dogs we meet in Dogs don’t even get to compete in the "big race" at the end of the doc. That’s right- we get all new dogs for the big finale, since quarantine laws in Jamaica don’t allow new animals to enter the country. Again: This is not a dog movie.
Like all other Jamaican athletes, the sled dogs needed the blessing of Hemingway’s Ghost before competing.
Sun Dogs is endorsed by Jimmy Buffett. Jimmy Buffett annoys the shit out of me, but if you’re into that sort of thing, then the Buffett factor is definitely worth noting, as he makes a few appearances here and there.
If anything, Dogs should have been more fun, but it wasn’t really fun to watch at all. When the dog-less dog sled team (oh, and the ‘team’ at that point is just one guy) goes to Scotland, it fails pretty miserably. By the end, I had written the whole thing off as a publicity stunt, which it probably was.
There’s nothing here. The video isn’t all that remarkable, and the audio is standard 2/0 stuff. The box art? It’s fine, but it might trick potential buyers into thinking that Sun Dogs is a film about Sun Dogs.
On the opposite page: "SPAIN IN THE ASS: Real Madrid beats Manchester Utd.!" It was a requirement that a country-based pun appear in every title.
3.7 out of 10