The Bad Movie Report
The OTHER Jack Frost
Own It!

by Jessica "Juniper" Ritchey

I imagine the heartaches of being a parent are many. Wondering when and if to discipline, concerns about your child’s safety, what will become of them, and sitting through innumerable live action children’s 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 you’ll have to wade through far too many Nukies or Thomas the Tank Engines to find anything remotely likeable. Filmmakers treat the title “children’s 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 they’re 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.  It’s also worth noting that Jack Frost was the name of a campy killer snowman flick that came out around the same time. I’ll 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 nobody’s business, but bug-eyed creepiness is not the best choice for a children’s 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. They’re 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 he’s on the road a"And if you angle the stick just right, the puck hits the goalie in the teeth." 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 won’t 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 we’re introduced to the generic school bully, girl he has a crush on, and nerdy best friend. Charlie’s excited about an upcoming hockey game. Jack promises he’ll be there. As we’re 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 he’s 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.

Aaaagh!  It's the Wendigo!  Run!!!One year later Charlie has given up the hockey and the friends and is devoted full time to being a brat. That night one of Dad’s 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 we’re 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 to eight-year-olds.

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 Charlie’s excuse about it being for a “science project”. Later Dad and Charlie are finally alone.

"Get the dog!  GET THE DOG!  That's ten points!"Forsaking questions about the afterlife and God’s 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 I’m the snowman!” Charlie wins the game and the acceptance of his peers. It seems all is well but wouldn’t you know a freak heat wave is heading for town…

Deciding he won’t 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 husband’s 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 don’t even tell me you weren’t 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 it’s feet. Mom’s taken up with the bandmate and Charlie rushes out to play with With no small regret, Timmy realized that Frosty was getting on in years, and it was time to put him to sleep.his friends. The credits roll and Quality has joined Foreshadowing in downing jello shots.

A frequent complaint about Kid’s 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.  It’s 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 they’ll be begging to do their chores.


As much fun as an icicle in the eye.

- February 7, 2003