Paramount // 2000 // 89 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge Norman Short (Retired) // October 5th, 2000
Roads closed. Schools shut. Rules were made to be frozen!
A simple, sweet, comedy for kids that ultimately never reaches an audience past the Nickelodeon age viewers it was made for; Snow Day is a big disappointment for adults trying to enjoy a movie safe for their kids. Paramount does their usual good job with picture and sound, and even includes a few extras on the disc, but the experience is still lacking in enjoyment.
As winter comes, kids dream of the snow closing the streets and getting a coveted day off from school. This is the main premise of the film, where the Brandston family each brings their own takes on the onset of a freak blizzard. The erstwhile hero of the story is teenager Hal Brandston (Mark Webber), who is suffering from a desperate crush on a popular girl (Emmanuelle Chriqui) who doesn't know he's alive. His attempt to be noticed and loved by the elusive beauty is just one of four stories being told however. Little sister Natalie (Zena Grey) dreams of a snow day like other kids dream of Disney World, and when it comes has to face off against her nemesis Snowplow Man (Chris Elliot) who has a hatred for kids and snow covered streets, along with a total disregard for dental hygiene. Father Tom Brandston (Chevy Chase) is the third most popular weatherman in a three newscast town, and is constantly humiliated by having to wear silly costumes in a futile effort to raise ratings. Perhaps his quick forecast of the blizzard could change his luck. Last, and least, is the career-minded mother Laura (Jean Smart) who has no time or patience for snow to stop her climbing the career ladder. The snow represents merely an obstacle to work while she would rather ignore her children. All four of these stories are told with narration providing the breaks between, as kids battle for a second snow day, careers are boosted or ruined, and our hero will either get the girl of his dreams or the girl under his nose.
The movie isn't always terrible. Some of the performances, particularly from young actress Zena Grey, are quite good for what they are given. The story of the teenager seeking the popular girl is formulaic but done pretty well. And supporting actress Schuyler Fisk is particularly appealing as the girl who really cares for Hal but is unnoticed, just as Hal isn't noticed by the popular girl.
This is really four stories crammed into less than 90 minutes, so it could be taken as several short stories instead. Out of those stories, the teenage romance angle, worked best, and was charming while suffering from its formulaic nature. The story of the kids versus Snowplow Man had the best single performance from Zena Grey, but was not written to be appealing to anyone over the age of 11. Chevy Chase hasn't been noteworthy in much of anything since Fletch, and isn't really here; but considering the quality of the film itself is pretty good. Totally extraneous and last in the entertainment department is the Jean Smart story where she must *gasp* bond with her own kid.
Paramount is usually known for producing DVDs with good picture and sound but usually lack extra content. But they've been including commentary tracks more often of late, and this disc actually has one. More on that later. The picture appears to be 1.78:1 aspect ration and is anamorphically enhanced. I have no clue as to the original aspect ratio but I suspect it was squeezed from 1.85 to be ready for 16 x 9 displays. The picture quality is very good, however. The overall white backgrounds from the snow are bright and constant, the level of detail is fine, and colors are otherwise bright and do not bleed. There is virtually no defects or film grain. If for some reason you were hanging on the picture quality to decide on a purchase, your worries are over. The soundtrack is fine as well; with a Dolby Digital 5.1 track that is reasonably spacious and defined. Dialogue, sound effects, and music are all clear and well placed.
The above was trying to find the good in an otherwise execrable film made for and seemingly by nine-year-olds. A few good lines, a few good performances stand out from a story that just made me groan most of the way through. Chevy Chase is actually a good point in this film, while Chris Elliot is meant to really carry the comedic level and, as always, fails miserably. Cardboard cut-out characters plod along through the most juvenile of situations. I suppose taken as a "made for Nickelodeon" TV film for youngsters this might work, but it was given a theatrical release and presumably should have something for adults to enjoy. Perhaps 10% of the film might appeal to those parents forced to sit through the film with their kids, and that isn't nearly enough. The villains are the worst of the culprits and characters in this abysmally bad film, and are simply painful to watch for any length of time. Fart jokes and Chris Elliot with bad teeth are meant to be high comedy, which should speak for itself.
Leaving the poor execution of the film as a whole, the movie suffers in other ways. Four stories in under 90 minutes is just too much, and at least one of the stories needed to be cut entirely. The mother and toddler story needed to go away, as it added nothing but poor filler to the film.
Next we move on to the extra content on the disc. First, I must congratulate Paramount for having any extras at all. Now we just have to work on getting better ones. The extra content consists of a commentary track with the director and screenwriters, a brief featurette, a promotional interview segment, and "Nickclusives" or short commercial length interview snippets. Everything except the commentary track represents what we in the trade call "marketing fluff," as cast members tell you about the part they play after you've already seen them play it. The commentary track is not pure promotion, but is not very good. Director Chris Koch, in his first feature film effort, and the writers laugh at all the wrong places (most of the places in this film would be called "wrong"), give informative insight such as "we should have included fart sounds here" during a romantic scene, and speak of the "genius of Chris Elliot." A stupid, insipid commentary to go with a stupid, insipid film.
If you're looking for a film for your young kids to watch while you're out of the room, this film might just be the ticket. There are a few nice and sweet moments stuck in the middle of a horrible story and horrid characters that won't appeal to anyone over the age of 13. If you don't fit the audience I just mentioned, give this one a pass.
Guilty! Off with their heads! Well, I'll let the actors go, but the director and writers must die. The kids are young enough to get past this.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (French)
Running Time: 89 Minutes
Release Year: 2000
MPAA Rating: Rated PG
* Commentary Track
* Cast Interviews