Weekly Wire
Austin Chronicle Snow Day

By Russell Smith

FEBRUARY 21, 2000: 

D: Chris Koch; with Chevy Chase, Jean Smart, Mark Webber, Schuyler Fisk, Zena Grey, Emmanuelle Chriqui. (PG, 90 min.)

Having declared its humble aspirations right up front by top-billing Chevy Chase, Snow Day delivers just enough unexpected charm and invention to earn that peculiar quality of gratitude we reserve for art that doesn't suck as badly as we'd feared it might. Not least among the virtues of this amiable Nickelodeon Movies comedy is its brilliance in evoking that unforgettable childhood thrill of watching snow pile up outside while breathlessly monitoring the weather channel for school closings. As one of the characters says, "anything can happen on a snow day," and all four major plotlines play effectively off this heady sense of unlimited possibility. For Tom Brandston (Chase), the sad-sack weatherman for his small town's lowest-rated TV news show, the white stuff's unexpected arrival is a chance to scoop and discredit his rival at the No. 1 station ­ a smarmy cretin whose dearth of meteorological expertise is revealed by gaffes such as his references to "Dope-ler" radar. Teenage son Hal (Webber), meanwhile, is mounting a death-or-glory campaign to score a date with unattainable high-school siren Claire (Chriqui). In the other story threads, Mom Laura (Smart) tries to kick her cell-phone addiction, and little sis Natalie (Grey) leads neighborhood children in a guerrilla war against the loathsome Snow Plow Guy (an enjoyably over-the-top Elliott), whose sadistic zeal for road-clearing stands between the kids and a coveted second straight snow day. In all cases, the expected outcomes roll around as inexorably as the tides. Nevertheless, the filmmakers deliver enough witty flourishes along the way ­ for example, Iggy Pop's hilarious cameo as an Al Martino-loving skating rink owner who tortures his teen clientele by blaring the crooner's somnolent ballads over his PA system ­ to convey a sense of, if not inspiration, then at least pride in workmanship. I also appreciated the appealing warmth and groundedness of the performances by Webber (Drive Me Crazy) and Fisk (the talented, unconventionally beautiful daughter of Sissy Spacek), both of whom seem destined for better things. Mind you, these virtues don't add up to anything more than passable family entertainment, but in terms of delivering fully on its modest promise, Snow Day is beyond reproach.

2.5 Stars

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