How cute – a boy and his magical snowman. I thought ole’ Frosty had that gimmick covered. That was until Michael Keaton came along with Jack Frost. I recall an interview in which Keaton said the prospect of starring in a film to join the holiday canon appealed to him as a father. A noble thought for certain, but generally people want to be remembered for a positive project rather than on a dark piece of Christmas coal.
Keaton plays the conveniently named Jack Frost. He is the cool dad. He’s a musician, dresses in clothes other than Dockers, dress shirts and black shoes that need polished every other Thursday. He’s got two earrings in one ear. More importantly, Jack a very open relationship with his son Charlie (Joseph Cross) and a loving wife (Kelly Preston) who understands the demands that have him on the road much of the time. After an automobile accident kills Jack, he comes back a year later as a snowman to help his son accept the fact that he is gone in body, but not in spirit. Deep stuff.
Most every scene in Jack Frost is obvious, sentimental or a combination of the two. Needless to say it’s often painful. I don’t mind a cheesy Full House message or two every now and again if the rest of the film is solid, but this one is not. Jack Frost has the feel that many of the scenes were built around what they wanted the scenes to say rather than starting with a solid set-up and seeing what emerges from it. Even naming the main character Jack Frost reeks of corniness. Sure, it was probably the first or second idea that was thought of, but those ideas are rarely the best. There’s the excuse of Jack Frost being a family movie to help explain the cheesy and obvious bits, but there’s some blatant toilet talk that compromises that stance as well. So if the audience is old enough for potty humour, then they should also be ready for something that isn’t stuffed down their throat.
The result is a film that, for the most part, feels artificial. Yes, movies are artificial by nature, but I’m under the impression that they’re meant to take us into a believable fantasy world. Even the set design has a fake feel to it. For example, as Charlie crawls in the snow to build his snowman, there’s no trail where the ever growing snowball had just run over. The snow banks on the side of the road are formed to a perfect, uniform roundness. Needless to say, believability, even in a world where snowmen come to life, is thrown out.
I’ll give the effects department credit for coming up with a clever looking snowman. The facial expressions in particular are excellent, showing a tremendous range of motion and flexibility. The thought of a man coming to grips with being reincarnated as a snowman does provide opportunities for the occasional bit of creative inspiration as well. As hokey as Jack is, Keaton gave him a good voice with a consistent attitude suitable for the character, no matter how shallow he might be.
Keaton wanted something in the Christmas canon and he’s gotten it, if only by default. Every year the DVD will get trotted out to the special holiday section at your local video store, displayed as though it’s worthy of renting. But it’s out simply because it takes place around the holidays, not because it belongs to be there.
Jack Frost Gallery