Sunday, December 24, 2023

Do You Want To Build a Snowman?

Jack Frost
Director: Troy Miller
Cast: Michael Keaton, Kelly Preston, Joseph Cross, Mark Addy
Released: December 11, 1998

This is a weird movie. I had never seen it before until now, but the only think I knew was that Michael Keaton's character dies and he is reincarnated into a snowman with the help of his young son. The first half hour of the movie he is alive and, well, honestly, I kept waiting for him to die. (Well, I knew it was eventually going to come!) He plays Jack Frost (yes, that's his real name; who names their child 'Jack Frost'?) and he's in a band called The Jack Frost Band (very original) that sometimes get air time in the small town they live in, Medford, Colorado. The radio station seems to pride itself on playing music from the '70s and '90s and promises it won't play anything from the '60s or '80s. Wouldn't it make more sense to play something from two consecutive decades? I would rank the '70s as my least favorite for music from those four decades, so I wouldn't be listening to that station! The Jack Frost Band has a song called "Frosty the Snowman." No, it's not a cover; it's an original song. At the beginning of the movie, we see them playing and a talent agent is there and is just so amazed by them. :::whispers:::: They're not that good. 

Jack is married to Gabby (Kelly Preston) and they have a ten-year-old son named Charlie (Joseph Cross). Charlie is on the hockey team and he wants his dad to attend the big game. His dad has band practice or a gig or something to do with his band, but he promises Charlie he'll be there. When he's saying this, I thought for sure he was going to get killed in an accident while driving there, but that doesn't happen. He does miss the game and Gabby is furious with him since he promised Charlie he would be there. He apologizes to Charlie and gives him a harmonica that's special to him because he got it the day Charlie was born. He tells Charlie it's a "magical" harmonica because he can hear it whenever Charlie plays it, no matter where he is. Since Christmas is near, he tells Charlie that he has a great idea of the three of them spending the day at their cabin in the mountains with no distractions and have a nice family Christmas and Charlie loves this idea.

Somewhere between this scene and before Christmas Eve, Jack and his son build a snowman and Charlie tells his dad it looks like him (it doesn't) because it's wearing his hat or something. I don't know. 

On Christmas Eve they've got the car packed and are ready to go to the cabin, but Jack gets a phone call from a big name label that wants to listen to The Jack Frost Band and potentially sign them. When he tells this to his family, they are ecstatic for him, but when he reveals he has to do it tomorrow (which is Christmas Day), they are not so happy. Gabby is a little more understanding and asks him how long he would have to play. He says only a couple songs, it wouldn't be a full set. Both him and Gabby think he'll be able to play the set, but still be able to spend time at the cabin. Charlie, however, is not happy about this at all and he gives his dad he harmonica back, telling him he doesn't want it anymore. 

Jack and his friend, Mac (Mark Addy), who's also the band's keyboardist, are driving to the gig in one car while the rest of the band and equipment are following them in a van. At one point, Jack tells Mac to pull over. He has decided he needs to be with his family and that they're more important than his career. He takes Mac's car and its now dark and snowy and the windshield wipers won't work and he's driving through a windy mountain road and I knew this was when he was going to die. 

Ironically, if he had just stayed with his band, he not only would have (most likely) still been alive, but he probably would have had a very lucrative career and I'm sure his son would have forgiven him for missing the Christmas when he was ten. But now he's dead and Gabby is working two jobs: we see her as a teller at the bank and a teacher at Charlie's school. Well, maybe she's just volunteering at the school; I wasn't really sure. 

After the car careens off the mountain, the screen goes black, then we are given a title card saying that it's one year later. This surprised me somewhat because I was thinking the snowman that Charlie and his dad had built was the one that is reincarnated into Jack. But it does make sense that they let a year go by because it would be a lot to deal with in this family comedy if we had to see how a young boy copes with the death of his father right after it happens. He's still pretty torn up about it a year later which is understandable. 

He has withdrawn from his friends and has quit the hockey team. One of his friends is played by Andy Lawrence and I'm like, okay, that's the one who wasn't on Blossom or Boy Meets World. Mika Boorem plays another friend who is also on the hockey team and I think she lives next door to him and I think she has a crush on Charlie, but they don't really explore that. We also never see them walk home together, so I may be wrong on her being his next door neighbor. There's also a bully named Rory who picks on Charlie and we see this in a scene before Jack dies and Charlie is usually able to get the upper hand on Rory. 

One snowy evening, Charlie builds a snowman while "Landslide" by Fleetwood Mac plays over the scene. He draws the snowman's mouth in the snow instead of using material like most kids would do, but this is probably for the sake of the production of the snowman (which was created with puppetry and some CGI). He's wearing a hat (the one that made him look like Jack) and a red scarf. He has a cork for a nose and his eyebrows are made out of pine needles, which I thought was clever. I can't tell what his eyes are made out of. 

Even though Charlie gave the harmonica to his dad before he died, he has it back and starts playing it in his room. We see some wind whip around the snowman and voila!, he comes alive. Okay, if I had built a snowman and it came alive, I would be terrified. Espeically if it looked like this snowman. And Charlie is terrified. Jack doesn't seem to realize he's a snowman until he sees his reflection in the mirror and even that doesn't deter him from people seeing him walk around town. 

When Charlie is pelted by snowballs the next day by Rory the bully, Snowman Jack has followed him and starts launching snowballs at Rory, just like that scene in Elf when Buddy pelts snowballs at the kids. Rory and his minions start chasing after him and Snowman Jack saves the day by rescuing him on a sled and they go down the mountain (I didn't even realize they were on top of a mountain in the first place) with the bully entourage chasing him with sleds and snowboards set to some very '90s song. I did some research and found it was "Hey Now Now" by Swirl 360, a song or a group I'm pretty sure I've never heard of in my life...and I was around in the' 90s. The song is so '90s it simultaneously made me cringe and feel nostalgic. While they're sledding down the mountain, Snowman Jack says, "I'm the man! No, I'm the snowman!" Insert groan here. 

Since the snowman helped Charlie escape the big bully and the little bullies, he thinks it might actually be his dad, so he asks him a few simple questions that his dad should know, right? Wrong! Jack gets them both wrong! But then he calls Charlie "Charlie-boy" while he's talking to him and Charlie is all, "What did you call me?" And this is his proof that the snowman is his dad. Really? I honestly feel like any random person could just guess that "Charlie-boy" is his nickname. I don't think that would be enough proof for me, but it's enough for this eleven-year-old. 

I mentioned that this was the first time seeing this movie and while watching it, I thought that perhaps the snowman isn't actually sentient; perhaps it's all in Charlie's minds and he's just imagining it to be alive because his grief is still so fresh. Charlie tells his dad that he came alive as a snowman after he played the harmonica and says he didn't know it really was magical and even Jack admits that he was bs-ing him when he said that. Being that this is just an ordinary harmonica, I wondered if Charlie had created this fantasy when he played the harmonica. However, there were a few scenes that made me question if this could actually be the case. Snowman Jacks tells Charlie he's hungry, so they go back to the house where Charlie gives him frozen vegetables (I guess that's what snowmen eat? Why would a snowman even need to eat anything? It's a snowman!) and while they're in the kitchen, they don't hear Gabby's car pull up. She's walking towards the house and notices the snowman isn't there. Snowman Jack is hiding in the pantry and Charlie tries to distract his other until the snowman can go back to the front yard where it was. When Gabby opens the blinds, she sees the snowman back in its place and just thinks she's losing her mind. The only thing I could explain for this scenario if the snowman isn't sentient is that Charlie brought in the snowman himself (Gabby did mention the floor was all wet). 

Charlie isn't the only one to witness a talking and moving snowman; his hockey coach sees Snowman Jack when Jack, who seems to forget that he's a freaking talking snowman, stops the coach in his car to ask him something and the man just screams. We will see later that he's being interviewed on TV about it and when the reporter asks if there were any other witnesses around (heh, clearly she doesn't believe him), he can only tell her no. Also, when Rory was chasing Charlie down the mountain, Snowman Jack comes up from behind him to wipe him out and Rory sees a snowman on a sled and he screams, "Ahhh! Snowman!" 

So those two examples don't really help my case that the living snowman is all in Charlie's mind. Even though it's still December and we got a couple months of winter left, the weather is getting warmer and if Charlie doesn't help him, he's going to turn into a puddle. 

After some heart to hearts with his snowman dad, Chatrlie has decided to rejoin the hockey team and Snowman Jack goes all the way to the rec center or wherever they have hockey games and watch his son play hockey since he always missed it when he was alive. The best thing about this movie is the adorable pet dog Charlie has named Chester and he uses the dog to pull a sled. By this time Snowman Jack knows he can't just be walking about since he's a freaking snowman so he has the dog pull him on a sled. You might be thinking the dog was a husky or a Samoyed, but it was a Wire Fox Terrier; at least that's what Google told me. I knew it was a terrier, but I had to look up what breed it was. But whatever it is, it is an absolutely adorable dog and easily the best part of there movie.

So Snowman Jack makes it to his son's hockey game (don't worry, he's not sitting with the rest of the spectators, he's sort of hidden...somewhere) and he only sees about the last fifteen seconds of the game, but Charlie scores a goal and he's able to see that, whoopee. After the game, Charlie doesn't seem one bit surprised that he's there. He does notice his snowman dad needs to get somewhere colder because he's starting to melt. He runs to the bank his mom works at, telling her she needs to help him and admits the snowman is her deceased husband. Of course she doesn't believe him and basically tells him she's not driving a snowman up a mountain. I mean, can you blame her? She had seen him talking to the snowman and was worried about him, but never did she think it was this bad! She runs after him, but he's gone, so she goes to see if Mac can help. By this time, Charlie has spotted an alpine tree truck heading towards the mountain so he decides to get his snowman dad on the truck. He does this with the help of Rory, of all people. At first, Rory taunts the boy, but then Snowman Jack talks to him, startling the boy. It kind of reminded me when Woody talks to Sid, but Rory handles a sentiment snowman way better than Sid handled a sentient toy. I probably would be more like Sid. Rory has grown up without a dad...I think he's in jail, maybe? I don't know, but he knows what it's like to not have a dad so this makes the two boys bond, I guess, and he helps Charlie get Snowman Jack in the truck. Charlie also rides with him even though Snowman Jack could easily just jump out of the truck when the truck reaches the  top, but I guess they need Charlie here as part of the plot. 

So they go to the top of the mountain and jump out and slide down. There's lots of snow and it's very beautiful, but the jacket Charlie is wearing looks very light. Maybe it's one of those coats that are warmer than it looks. I also noticed that this kid never wears a scarf or anything to cover his neck or lower face and I can just imagine how cold he must get. Maybe it wasn't as cold as it looked, I don't know. Maybe I'm just a wimp when it comes to cold weather and I like to bundle up. But luckily, they are near their cabin, so Charlie is able to get warmed up on the couch in front of the fire. We don't see who made the fire, but how f***ed up would that be if the snowman made it? 

It's now dark outside and you can imagine that Gabby is besides herself with worry because her son not only thinks his dead dad is a snowman, but he's also missing. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention, when she and Mac are looking for him, we see them go down a street, just missing Charlie and Snowman Jack jumping onto the truck. Gabby gets a phone call and it's Snowman Jack telling her that Charlie is safe and he's at the cabin. Gabby wants to know who's calling her, then realizes it sounds like Jack's voice and when she says "Jack"? he hangs up. I would be a little concerned if I were her and would probably call the cops to accompany me to the cabin. Who knows if this is some sick creep who kidnapped Charlie and maybe he knew Jack so he's able to impersonate his voice and now he's trying to lure Gabby into his trap. Just saying!

But Gabby drive-up alone and there's nothing to worry about because it's just a sentient snowman who's her deceased husband. I guess the magical curse or whatever you want to call it wears off because the snowman disappears, but then we see Michael Keaton with a glow emitting from him as he says goodbye to his son and wife for the final time. By the time Gabby witness this, I knew for a fact that Michael Keaton was really a sentient snowman this entire time and Charlie wasn't just imagining it. I sort of figured this out earlier, but kept trying to tell myself that they would explain the odd things. No, it's a real f***ing snowman! That was brought to life by a regular old harmonica! O-kay! 

Another thing I felt they never address or maybe I just missed it, was if Gabby and Charlie knew that Jack was coming to see them at the cabin last year at Christmas? Did they figure out when they realized his car was coming towards them? But his car flew off a mountain, so how would they know if he was going towards the cabin or away from them? I kept waiting for Snowman Jack to tell Charlie this, but he never does. Maybe he just didn't want to make Charlie feel guilty. 

I suppose this could be classified as a Christmas movie and even though it's set around Christmas and there's a Christmas tree and Christmas decorations, it just doesn't feel like a Christmas movie. It feels more like a winter movie, you know, with the winter sports like hockey and snowboarding and, duh, the snowman. When I was looking up the song that played during the sledding scene, I noticed there were Christmas songs listed, but I honestly don't even remember hearing them. I doubt this is on anyone's top ten Christmas movie list, let alone top fifty! 

Okay, bye. 

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