Jack Frost (1998)
Directed by Troy Miller
Cast: Joseph Cross, Michael Keaton, Kelly Preston, Mark Addy, Henry Rollins, Andrew Lawrence.
1998 95 minutes
Rated: (for sexual situations, mild profanity, and mature themes).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, December 13, 1998.
"Jack Frost," is one of those dumb, corny concoctions that attempts to be a heartwarming family film, but is too muddled in its own cliches and predictability to be the least bit touching. This does not come as a surprise, since the studio that made it is Warner Brothers, who is on a current streak of one bad film after the other.
Jack Frost (Michael Keaton) is a struggling middle-aged rock musician who loves his wife, Gabby (Kelly Preston), and 11-year-old son, Charlie (Joseph Cross), but doesn't spend nearly enough time with them. When he receives a call from a music label that wants to hear him play, he has to cancel his planned family outing up in the mountains for Christmas. Halfway there, Jack has second thoughts, but on his way back home, is in a car accident and dies. Switch forward a year, Christmas is approaching once again, and Charlie and Gabby are still having a difficult time coming to terms with Jack's death. When Charlie begins to play the harmonica his father gave him the night before he died, the snowman outside the house is taken over by Jack's spirit. Jack wants to spend some time with his son before the upcoming warm front melts him, but Charlie desperately tries to prevent his melting demise.
"Frosty the Snowman," is a classic cartoon, and the idea of a snowman that is alive works splendidly when animated, but as a live-action film, it doesn't work at all. After a somewhat promising prologue in which the Frost family is established, "Jack Frost," quickly goes downhill, especially once the snowman comes into play. Since Jack has been deceased for a whole year, you would think there would be many questions to ask him, such as, "what happens after you die?" or, "how does it feel to be a snowman?" but instead, the film focuses on a snowball fight subplot and an inevitably oversentimental climax that could be telegraphed before I even sat down to watch the movie.
The performances are respectable enough, but no one deserves to be punished by appearing in a silly film like this. Michael Keaton at least got off easy, since he disappears after the first twenty minutes, but what exactly does he think he is doing with his career here? I have always liked Kelly Preston. She is clearly a talented, charismatic actress, but has never been given a good role in her life, usually having to settle for a one-dimensional supporting character, as in, 1997's, "Nothing to Lose," and, "Addicted to Love." Joseph Cross was probably the highlight in the cast, since he believably portrayed a boy suffering the loss of a parent. In one of the only subplots that actually works, due to its wittiness, Henry Rollins is highly amusing as a hockey coach who becomes terrified and paranoid after seeing the live snowman.
This brief hint of cleverness is pushed to the side, however, by the tried-and-true main plot at hand, which is the sappy story of a father and son. Since I knew what was going to happen by the time the conclusion came around, I had no choice but to sit there and listen to painfully insipid, cringe-inducing lines of dialogue. Some of my favorites was an interaction between the son and father: "You da man," says Charlie. "No, I da snowman," replies Jack. Or how about this little zinger, coming from a school bully that miraculously becomes friendly towards Charlie and tries to help him out: "Snowdad is better than no dad." Do people really get paid in Hollywood for writing pieces of trash like this?
The snowman, created by John Henson's Creature Shop, is more believable than the snowman from last year's unintentionally hilarious direct-to-video horror flick, also called, "Jack Frost," but it still was difficult to tell if it was a person in a suit or computer effects. Either way, it was an awful lot of work to go through, just to come up with a final product as featherbrained as this project.
As a seasonal Holiday picture, "Jack Frost," is pretty much a clunker. A better Christmas film from this year is, "I'll Be Home For Christmas." Better yet, my suggestion would be to stay home and watch a quality film, such as, "It's a Wonderful Life," "A Christmas Story," or, "Prancer." "Jack Frost," is an earnest, but severely misguided film, and children, as well as adults, deserve better. I doubt they would want to see a movie about the death of a parent, anyway.
©1998 by Dustin Putman