Jack Frost (1998)

He’s Snowboarding On His Flesh

When I was a kid, nothing got me and my friends more hyped up in anticipation than snow. Yep – the glorious white stuff. To us, there were few other activities as fun as playing in the snow. One major problem, however; I grew up in a country in which we only get about 3-4 days a year of significant snowfall in which it would actually settle on the ground. So when there was a significant level of snowfall, we would make the utmost use of it. Snowball fights, sledding, snow angels and of course, making a snowman.

Snowmen were a subject of my childhood fascination. Why? They just have a certain magical appeal. Whenever I would see one in someone else’s garden, I would always have to point it out, “Look, a snowman!” So when my friends and I heard about the movie Jack Frost, in which a snowman comes to life, we were psyched to see it. Although there already existed the 1982 animated short The Snowman which had a similar premise, I believe Jack Frost appealed to us more for several reasons:
-It was a movie more of our generation.
-It was live action and the snowman looks just like a real snowman we could have created ourselves.
-But most importantly, the movie was called Jack Frost. When I was younger, whenever there was a frosty night, we would always say that Jack Frost is out tonight.

So one weekend myself and one of my friends rented Jack Frost on video and we thought it was an absolute blast. However even at that age we thought there were some stupid moments, such as when Charlie is hanging over a wall of snow and he’s supposed to be in danger, yet the drop itself is tiny; or during the sledge chase sequence when two kids just happen to have a snowball the size of a boulder on standby to stop Charlie and Jack. However, the one aspect of the film we found to be the most unbelievable was in how Charlie had not got over his father’s death one year on. The reason for this is that a friend of ours had recently lost his father to an illness, yet was back in school one week later, acting as he normally would. To us, Charlie isolating himself from his friends due to his father’s death one year on seemed far-fetched. In retrospect, however, this view was short-sighted.

Regardless we could only look on in envy at just how much snow this fictional picture perfect postcard town of Medford, Colorado had. In my home country when it did snow our teachers wouldn’t even let us go outside to play in it. Yet in Jack Frost, the kids are able to go into the snow and have trench warfare battle snowball fights. Plus they don’t even wear school uniforms?! You can imagine the jealousy us kids had for our Yankee counterparts.

Several years later, I saw Jack Frost again on TV one weekend and the following Monday in school, it seems half the class also watched it and were all raving about how much we loved it; discussing our favourite moments, talking about the scenes we found to be the funniest. Even my teacher had watched it over the weekend and called it – and I quote – “a wonderful film”.

Now years later with the advent of the internet, I find out that Jack Frost is considered a terrible film and the critics trashed it. However, when watching it again after all these years it still strikes a chord with me as a pool of happy, nostalgic memories coming flooding back. But what I can I take from the film and examine now with an adult perspective?

One of the biggest criticisms I hear against the movie is that the snowman is creepy. Even Roger Ebert criticised the design with its anorexic looking twigs for arms. Well, it’s all in the eye of the beholder I guess. I also liked the design of the snowman as I think not only does he look cute but looks just like a snowman the average kid would make. The snowman was originally designed for George Clooney and I can see Clooney’s face within it. Apparently, the casting change to Michael Keaton caused major problems for the film’s SFX team. Watching my late 90’s DVD copy of Jack Frost, the CGI doesn’t look half bad. Although if I was to ever watch the film on an HD transfer perhaps it might not look as good.

Jack Frost belongs to that breed of film which was everywhere in the ’90s in which a workaholic father can’t make time for his kids. As drawn out as this cliché was in the 90s, it does raise the question – should you even have children if you’re going to dedicate yourself to a lifelong career or venture? Jack Frost does go a step further with this examination of fatherlessness with the character of Rory whom as the movie states, never saw his old man and resents it (“It sucks, it sucks big time”). Any coincidence his character is a delinquent. The father-son relationship in Jack Frost does tug at my heartstrings and yes, that ending kills me.

Many aspects of Jack Frost scream this is a late 90’s movie from those early CGI credits to the film’s emphasises on extreme sports such as hockey and snowboarding. Even the antagonist is named Rory Buck – might as well be called 90’s Mc 90’serson. Even the radio presenter at the beginning of the film states: “we got more music coming from the 70’s and 90’s. No 80’s I promise” (Boo!).

Viewing Jack Frost from a more mature perspective I am forced to suspend my disbelief at my many aspects of the film’s plot. So for starters, does the afterlife exist within the universe of Jack Frost? Where was Jack for the entire year before he came back as a snowman? Was he in purgatory? How did he suddenly find out how to change back to his human self then leave? What’s the deal with the magic harmonica? Does God himself exist in this universe?

Then there’s that whole snowboarding sequence. It’s a blast to watch even though I have to refrain from questioning how illogical it is. I already thought the conveniently placed snow boulders where stupid as a kid but I also notice how snowboards and snowbikes are all conveniently placed. But more importantly, the kids do notice that Charlie is sledding with a sentient snowman? Also, have you considered that he’s essentially snowboarding on his flesh? But who cares, this sequence is a ton of fun and Hey Now Now by Swirl 360 is a tune. That money shot of Jack Frost snowboarding in mid-air brings a smile to my face.

Rock on Jack Frost! Snow dad is better than no dad!