by Jessica "Juniper" Ritchey
I imagine the heartaches of being a parent are many. Wondering
when and if to discipline, concerns about your childs safety,
what will become of them, and sitting through innumerable live
action childrens films. Sure there are gems to be found
- The Iron Giant, Lilo and
Stitch - but those and many other bearable kids flicks
are animated. When it comes to live action youll have to
wade through far too many Nukies
or Thomas the Tank Engines to find anything remotely
likeable. Filmmakers treat the title childrens film
as a pass to slack off. Viewing their product as a sort of virtual
babysitter, they forgo concerns such as plot, character development,
and dialogue in the name of creating something to keep the brats
quiet for eighty minutes. They forget that a)
parents have to sit through them sometimes, and b)
kids are not that dumb. Oh sure, kids will try to jump of the
roof or cook a shoe in the microwave but they know when theyre
being talked down to. Couple this with the disturbing trend of
such movies to star spoiled brats who are less endearing than
in need of a trip to the woodshed and sadism flourishes in the
twenty first century.
Our current subject is an all time champion of bad judgement.
In it, a dad who (of course) never spent enough time with his
family comes back to life as a snowman. Let me say this again:
comes back to life as
a snowman. Whatever
genius thought this was a heartwarming winner is probably scooping
Mac and Cheese at the studio commissary right now.
Its also worth noting that Jack
Frost was the name of a campy
killer snowman flick that came out around the same time. Ill
let you make the obvious joke and move on.
The titular creature is voiced (and modeled after) Michael Keaton.
Let me say this: I like Mike, he can do bug-eyed creepiness like
nobodys business, but bug-eyed creepiness is not the best
choice for a childrens film. The permanently bland Kelly Preston
assays the mom role. And as for the son the thankfully still unknown
Joseph Cross plays Charlie.
We meet Jack playing with
his band, imaginatively named The Jack Frost Band. Theyre
playing a blues version of Frosty the Snowman. I think Foreshadowing
threw up at that one. The crowd loves it and when they finish up
some nameless record hack tells them a MegaLabel is very interested.
I guess watered down retreads of the Blues Brothers is the next
wave in pop music.
Jack is ecstatic and rushes home to tell his
family. It seems hes on the road a
lot at lot and he and Gabby (Preston) have a cute exchange of
her pretending not to know him. Charlie rushes out to greet his
dad. Some more scenes of garsh we luv each other wont
it be sad when one of takes a dirt nap? Charlie and Dad
build a snowman, I think Foreshadowing is going to need a stiff
old fashioned to get through this.
At bedtime Jack gives Charlie a harmonica and
tells him that whenever Charlie plays it Jack will hear it. (Foreshadowing
orders a chaser)The next day were introduced to the generic
school bully, girl he has a crush on, and nerdy best friend. Charlies
excited about an upcoming hockey game. Jack promises hell
be there. As were still in the first act, Jack misses the
game and Charlie gets pounded. He throws a hissyfit and Jack makes
plans to take them all to the family cabin for the holidays. Foreshadowing
flicks peanuts at the other patrons.
Jack gets a call from record hack - seems hes
need this instant for a demo. Jack tries to explain but
Charlie pouts and gives the harmonica back. He sends Gabby and
Charlie on to the cabin. On the road he has a change of heart
and turns around. Charlie waits at the cabin window Dad tries
to navigate the icy roads but is taken by the night.
year later Charlie has given up the hockey and the friends and
is devoted full time to being a brat. That night one of Dads
bandmates baby-sits him, he builds a snowman, finds the harmonica
and goes to bed. He plays a note or two then goes to sleep. Some
CGI snow swirls around the snowman and were treated to one
of the most disturbing creatures in recent memory. A hideous snowbeast
with Keaton eyebrows and little red nose tries to move. Its eyes
have gone from coal to the darkest obsidian with the tiniest reflection
of a pupil. The creature sort of walk-hops to the window screams
upon viewing his reflection. He then looks down at his waist and
whimpers No! introducing the snowman genitalia joke
The disturbance wakes Charlie who is frightened
out of his gourd at this wraith claming to be his father. Mom
comes home and he tries to tell her and the sitter what happened
but SnowJack is standing perfectly still and despite his protests
Mom sends him off to bed. The next morning passes without incident
but in the afternoon Jack tries again. Charlie gets used to the
idea of his deceased father as a snowman surprisingly quickly
and invites him in. Mom interrupts their conversation and Charlie
quickly stuffs Dad in the freezer. Mom is less than pleased to
find water all over the floor but buys Charlies excuse about
it being for a science project. Later Dad and Charlie
are finally alone.
questions about the afterlife and Gods existence Charlie
guilt-trips Dad into teaching him the J shot a hockey
technique he will undoubtedly use to win the game at the final
quarter. He and snowdad bond and even have time to squeeze in
a snowball chase/ sled race with the bullies. Thus giving dad
the chance to utter was hoped to be the catch phrase of 98
You the man! No Im the snowman!
Charlie wins the game and the acceptance of his peers. It seems
all is well but wouldnt you know a freak heat wave is heading
Deciding he wont give up his dad a second
time he heads for the family cabin. Once in the higher elevations
Dad sighs happily that His balls are freezing. Their
happiness is short lived as dad places a call to mom. She sees
mildly perturbed at hearing her dead husbands voice and
goes to the cabin. Then in an ending so hamfisted it would make
Touched by an Angel blush.
Dad melts away to reveal the ghostly specter of Michael Keaton.
With tears glinting in his cold eyes he says how much he loves
them and will miss them. Then Charlie yells Beetlejuice!
Beetlejuice! Beetlejuice! and the ground opens up and he
is sucked in.
Oh he does not, but dont even tell me you
werent hoping that was going to happen.
Some of the golden, non-religiously affiliated
light from Ghost envelops Dad and he vanishes. A few months later we see the
family back on its feet. Moms taken up with the bandmate
and Charlie rushes out to play with his
friends. The credits roll and Quality has joined Foreshadowing
in downing jello shots.
A frequent complaint about Kids flicks
is their reticence to take on serious subjects. Jack Frost has the opposite problem it
has the death of a parent but glosses over the tough questions
in favor of wacky hijinx and far too many ice and snow puns. I
would fathom a guess that this started out as a live action remake
of Frosty the Snowman, a dumb but harmless idea. Then to give
it meaning the dead Dad plot was tacked on. Its likely to upset younger kids while
older ones will be bored with all this family stuff.
Technically it is very shoddy. The sled race features some of
the most groan-inducing rear projection shots outside of a Korean
monster flick. The snow is patently fake and the town never loses
the feeling of a set. It is a good virtual babysitter if your
kids have been acting up. One viewing of this and theyll
be begging to do their chores.