By Christian DiMartino
Imagine hiring one the most talented, funny actors in Hollywood to provide the voice of a creepy, CGI snowman. Not just a creepy, CGI snowman though: a creepy CGI snowman who doesn’t get much in the way that’s funny to say or do. Of course I’m talking about Michael Keaton, and the 1998 film Jack Frost. Mind you, this movie isn’t the abomination I remember it being, simply based on the fact that its heart is in the right place. It’s just not a very well written movie, and furthermore, the snowman is creepy.
Well, it’s weird. For 1998, I can’t tell if the effects surrounding the snowman look good, or like s**t. In some cases, when you sense practical effects are at play, it looks good. In other cases, when the film relies on visual effects, it looks like s**t. In either case, the face of the snowman, and the way it moves, gives me the willies. This is not Jumanji, a 90’s family movie that seemed determined to scare the s**t out of children (that movie still rips, btw). This is a movie that sets out to tug at the heartstrings.
Revisiting Jack Frost, in a way, I sensed that the makers were trying to do their own form of E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial. That film was of course about a lonely boy whose family was dealing with a divorce, and he befriends an alien that fills the void of his father’s absence. Jack Frost has a far more cuckoo approach, but hits some of the same beats. The ending of the movie feels sincere and is emotional, too. Here’s the problem though: Keaton is known for his comedic chops, and they don’t really give him any freedom to be funny. There’s hijinks, but they’re not particularly interesting.
Okay, back to the snowman. I have a lot of thoughts, sorry. So, it turns out that before Keaton was cast, someone else was up for this role, and cast. That someone was George Clooney, and apparently the snowman that was designed for this movie was to look like George Clooney. I find this hilarious because the snowman is creepy, and George Clooney is hot. I also find this funny because George Clooney backed out of this movie to star in… Batman & Robin. So Clooney left this to play Batman (a role that he still dunks on), and he was replaced by… a fellow Batman. I don’t know, I think it’s interesting.
Okay, I have to stay focused. So, the movie centers on a guy named Jack Frost, who is played by Keaton. Maybe his parents thought they were being cute or something, I don’t know. Frost is the lead singer of a band called “The Jack Frost Band,” and his sole profession is this band. Apparently they’re about to make it big. From this setup alone, I have questions. Because I just can’t see how a band like this would make it big. I can’t see how they’re currently successful enough for it to be Frost’s form of income. Also, the band is located in Colorado, and I don’t know what the music scene is like out there, but I’m sure it’s not quite in bloom.
Anyways, Frost is married to Gabby (the late Kelly Preston), and they have a son named Charlie (Joseph Cross), who is a hockey player that keeps getting bullied. Jack has been spending more time with his band than his family, and it’s getting in the way. He decides to put his family first, and take them on a trip to a cabin for Christmas. However, he is told that the band is really going to make it big this time, and that he has to seal the deal with the record label… on Christmas Eve. Sheesh. His family is disappointed, but they support him. While on the way to make the deal, Jack decides to choose his family instead. So he turns around and heads back to them. Alas, it’s in the middle of a really bad storm, and while he’s driving, Jack crashes and dies.
A year goes by, and his family is still undeniably distraught. As I sit here typing, I can’t deny that this material is really sad. And as the movie was wrapping up, I couldn’t wrap my head around just who this was intended for. Because the themes of grief and mourning are on full display… but then there’s a magical harmonica and it gives off the vibe that it wants to be family friendly… okay, I’m getting ahead of myself. Charlie is super depressed, obviously. So in an attempt to feel closer to his dad, he plays the harmonica that Jack gave him shortly before his death. And… his dad is brought back to life, in the form of a snowman. Charlie is obviously horrified, but eventually delighted by his dad’s return. But he must keep him a secret, because, well, this all sounds insane. So he reconnects with his dad and they go around the town and yada yada.
I say that I don’t know who this is for because… it’s a family comedy that isn’t very funny, and what the movie is really dealing with isn’t the stuff for a family comedy. It wants to be a comedic fantasy but it’s also seeped in something that is really tragic. So the movie was wrapping up, and I remembered its ending, and I found it confounding. Because (SPOILERS) the sun comes out, Jack begins melting, and he soon dies and the family moves on. I get what it’s doing, and in another movie it would work. But this shouldn’t have been wrapped in the package of a family comedy. I guess this isn’t the first movie to try something like this. I don’t know, this is a weird movie. One that I liked a bit more, if because I’m an unabashed softy. But one whose existence feels as if it’s in limbo.
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