a critiQal film review Jack Frost (1998)

  • DVD

Plot: Long-struggling musician Jack Frost (Keaton), realizes he's missing something vital: time with his wife (Preston) and son Charlie (Cross). Before he can make up for lost time, however, he dies in a car accident . One year later, he returns as a snowman, and has one final chance to put things right with his son before he is gone forever.

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  • ...this film, while providing a bit of Christmas magic as the snowman comes to life during the holidays, never quite recovers it's merry after the father's untimely death.

After opening presents on Christmas Day, we decided to sit down and watch one last holiday film to wrap up the Christmas season. But what to watch? We couldn’t decide – until we remembered we had picked up Jack Frost for cheap after the holidays last year, and had never gotten around to watching it.

Would Jack Frost be the perfect cap to our holiday season, or was there a reason it was so cheap last year?

Michael Keaton, who has basically disappeared from the movie front since White Noise (2005) and Herbie: Fully Loaded (2005), plays the dad-turned-snowman in Jack Frost. While not usually the most caring of guys – he usually is the quirky, slightly odd character, not the loving family man – he does a decent job in his dual roles. As the dad, he’s a harmonica-playing goofus, is basically a rather shallow guy, but a gentler side comes through when interacting with his wife Kelly Preston and son Joseph Cross.

As the snowman, however, while he’s supposed to be more rambunctious and wild n’ crazy, the gentler side comes through much more often than not, and the wild n’ crazy seems forced. His personality is toned down somewhat when he’s just voicing the character, and he gives a much better performance in the snowman role.

The rest of the cast don’t really do much to broaden their characters. Kelly Preston is the doting mom, dealing with her own grief and trying to care for her son at the same time; Joseph Cross is the hurt son trying to make it through life after the sudden loss of his dad; Mark Addy is the friendly old friend of the dad trying to do his best to lend support to the family of his old friend…characters like that are rather stereotypical in films, and the actors all do their best to keep within the general lines of their characters, without really going the extra effort to make the characters memorable in any way.

And the supporting cast is downright silly. From a bully who has a change of heart to Charlie’s pals, the supporting cast really contributes nothing to the film, other than giving the whole film a rather cheesy TV-movie feel that Jack Frost would have been much better without.

The whole setup for the film – the tragic death of a loving father – is rather depressing for a Holiday film. Sure, it makes it up a little with the whole snowman comedy routine, but that death is never far from the viewer’s mind, and totally defeats the Christmastime feel the film is going for. It’s not merry at all, despite it’s attempts to put the cheer back in it’s holiday cheer.

Sure, there are a couple of funny moments with Keaton as a snowman, but the special effects hinder those moments as well. While Jack is believable as a snowman, some of his sequences have some obvious effects flaws (when he’s snowboarding down a mountain, for example, it’s obvious the character is not actually snowboarding – at best, it looks like they’ve got the character in front of a green screen). Still, the snowman himself is quite believable, so viewers will probably be able to overlook most of the other special effects’ flaws.

While slightly heart-warming, the whole gist of Jack Frost is more depressing than one would normally expect from a holiday movie for the whole family, and it never quite delivers on the holiday cheer. Sure, there’s a bit of the Christmas magic alive in the film, thanks to Keaton’s return as a snowman around the holidays, but the merry seems to have been left behind for this one.

Despite it’s somewhat cheesy TV-movie feel and it’s special effects flaws, however, it’s not too bad overall, but the death of the dad may be something the parents want to consider before renting this one for the family. Grown-ups may groan a bit at some of the antics, but kids should at least enjoy the snowman sequences, so there is a bit of something for the whole family in this one. Unfortunately, it’s different parts of the whole, rather than the film itself.

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