Directed by: Troy Miller
Written by: Mark Steven Johnson, Steve Bloom, Jonathan Roberts & Jeff Cesario
Starring: Michael Keaton, Kelly Preston, Joseph Cross & Mark Addy
I must admit that I have a soft spot for Troy Miller’s 1998 family film, Jack Frost, which is one of the best examples of good intentions gone laughably wrong ever put to the silver screen. I don’t care for the film, but I find it oddly fascinating. For those who don’t know already, the movie’s plot is about a father who dies in a car accident and comes back a year later as a snowman. Now, I’m no stranger to bizarrely themed Christmas films (both Rene Cardona’s 1959 film Santa Claus and Nicolas Webster’s 1964 film Santa Claus Conquers the Martians top my favorite movies to watch for the holidays), but none have had me as puzzled as much as Jack Frost. And that’s coming from someone who saw the identically titled comedy/horror film from Michael Cooney that came out a short while before this film’s release… and liked it.
Michael Keaton plays Jack Frost, a struggling musician whose band might just make their dream of landing a much desired record contract come true. The downside to this is that Jack will miss out on his family’s planned Christmas vacation in the mountains. Jack’s already on bad terms with his wife (Kelly Preston), but even more so with his son Charlie (Joseph Cross). Coming to the realization that his family is more important, Jack decides to back out on this chance of a lifetime (to his band-mates’ approval). On his way to his family’s cabin in the mountains a terrible snowstorm comes through, and because of a faulty windshield wiper, Jack crashes and dies.
So, that’s some pretty heavy stuff to pack into a children’s film. And, by all accounts this film could have went into many possible inspiring directions at this point in the story. But, it chose to have Jack’s spirit inhabit a snowman that Charlie made in his front yard. I suppose on some level this sounds like it could be whimsical and entertaining. Kind of like Frosty the Snowman. The fact that Jack is a living, talking snowman is something too phenomenal to overlook. But, overlook this film does. And instead of trying to develop the strained relationship between a son and his now snowman father, the film wants to be more about the whacky scenarios these two can get into.
At one point Jack Frost (the snowman version) is rapidly firing snowballs down at a bunch of children picking on a little girl. Shortly there after he nearly kills a boy by running him off a ski trail. Kind of hard to feel sympathetic towards a man (or snow creature) who nearly caused the death of a young boy. Even if that boy is an incredible douche.
It’s even more difficult to sympathize with a creature such as Jack Frost when he looks as terrifying as he does. I don’t know if it’s the slightly human looking face, or those boney twig arms, but there is something extremely unsettling about Jack Frost. He’s more frightening to look at than the killer snowman in the horror themed Jack Frost could ever hope to be. Admittedly, the creation, which was made by Jim Henson’s Creature Shop, is an impressive bit of puppetry. It’s disturbing to look at most of the time, but is brought to life by some fantastic work (well, when CG isn‘t being used). Never have so many great minds come together to make such a fantastic monstrosity.
As ridiculous as the premise is in Jack Frost, it could have gone to better use than a handful of comedic scenes slapped with a schmaltzy and overly sentimental finale. It’s a movie about a dead man returning to life as a snowman! Sit back and let that notion sink in. As outlandish as that sounds, why is the best anyone could have thought of to utilize this is a premise better suited for a television special? Oh well. Jack Frost makes for one of the most enjoyable pieces of cinematic garbage you can visit with during the holiday season. If for all the wrong reasons that is.