Snow Day (2000)
Directed by Chris Koch
Cast: Mark Webber, Schuyler Fisk, Zena Grey, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Jean Smart, Chevy Chase, Chris Elliott, Pam Grier.
2000 89 minutes
Rated: (for toilet humor).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, February 12, 2000.
The magic that arises when children across the country listen eagerly to the radio after a snowfall to see if school has been canceled for the day is brought vibrantly to life in "Snow Day," a mildly entertaining diversion that, nonetheless, features at least three stories that do not mesh well when strung together, as they are clearly aimed at different age groups. Directed by Chris Koch, the film is a valiant effort that will only charm most audiences for one-third of the time, based on the viewer's age, and this is unfortunate, as the talent to make a truly winning family picture is present throughout.
The town of Syracuse is having a disappointing winter, with nary a snow storm in sight. But then something unexpected happens in the air pressure and the residents awake to find their outside surroundings blanketed in a heavy layer of snow. School is announced to be closed for the day, and for some of the members of the Brandston family, their lives will be changed--for the good--by nightfall.
Story #1 involves teenage son Hal Brandston (Mark Webber), who is infatuated with high school beauty Claire Bonner (Emmanuelle Chriqui), and takes finding her ankle bracelet as a sign that they were meant for each other. Helping him out is his best friend, Lane (Schuyler Fisk), the girl in his life he fails to see he is really meant for. Preteens and teenagers are the target audience of this story, and it is the sweetest subplot in the film, terribly predictable, but consistently entertaining and equipped with a fetching innocence. Mark Webber is strong as the protagonist of this tale and the narrator of the film, but it is his female counterparts who steal the show. Schuyler Fisk, who is Sissy Spacek's daughter, proves that she very well could prove to be just as talented an actress as her mother, and is absolutely lovely as Lane. And the way in which the Claire character is handled is impressive and noteworthy, as she isn't simply written as the "seemingly unobtainable object," but as a real person who is charmed by Hal's persistence in winning her over. Emmanuelle Chriqui is a fresh face I look forward to seeing in the future.
Story #2 is far less successful, and aimed for the ages 5-11 bracket, as young Natalie Brandston (Zena Grey) sets out to stop the infamous Snow Plow Man (Chris Elliott), a maniacal worker for the city hell-bent on clearing each and every street by day's end. Syracuse schools have never been closed for snow two days in a row, and Natalie is determined to change that. While there are a couple intermittent laughs within this story, it is cliched and juvenile, and much of the humor is lame. Chris Elliott has a lot of fun as the villainous Snow Plow Man, but Zena Grey, as Natalie, is the type of child who rubs me the wrong way. Unctuous and annoyingly loudmouthed, Grey does not win any sort of plaudits from me.
Finally, Story #3 deals with the Brandston parents' adventures individually, so there actually could qualify as being a Story #4, as well. Tom Brandston (Chevy Chase) is a news weatherman whose boss (Pam Grier) is always insisting he dress up in extravagantly silly costumes, in hopes that it will pull in viewers, when all Tom wants to do is be taken seriously in his profession as a meteorologist. Tom's wife, Laura (Jean Smart), is a workaholic whose job takes away from being able to be the involved parent she aspires to be. Snowed in and unable to go to work, Laura spends the day with her youngest son, and rediscovers why being a parent should come before her job. These subplots are tolerable, and a step up from Story #2, but generally slight and their payoffs are telegraphed far in advance. In the actor department, Chevy Chase is wasted and rarely given a snappy line of dialogue; Pam Grier is crazy to have even considered appearing in such a throwaway role; and Jean Smart is likable and entertaining.
When all is said and done, "Snow Day" fails because it is so resolutely uneven. It is unclear what director Koch was attempting by mixing all of these different stories for different ages, unless he was hoping he could possibly attract a wider audience and, thus, make more money. He may just succeed on that level, in getting them into the theater, but the film itself is a strange experience. While keeping an innocuous tone throughout, "Snow Day" is unsure what it wants to be, and never firmly finds its footing.
©2000 by Dustin Putman