Weekly Wire
Austin Chronicle Jack Frost

By Marc Savlov

DECEMBER 21, 1998: 

D: Troy Miller; with Michael Keaton, Kelly Preston, Mark Addy, Joseph Cross. (PG, 96 min.)

The holidays tend to bring out the treacle in all of us -- not a bad thing by any means, really -- but this corny bit of hokum is so eager to please that it comes off with all the wallop of a low-thrown snowball to the giblets, eliciting pained moans and grimaces in place of promised holiday cheer. Keaton (in his seventh pairing with co-producer Mark Canton) plays Jack Frost, a Colorado bar-band rocker with dreams of major label success. On Christmas Eve, Frost gets the opportunity of a lifetime: A major record label loves his group and promises him a record contract if only he'll leave behind his family on Christmas Day to play the exec's party in Denver. Frost, who's already made a mess of his parental and spousal obligations by missing the umpteenth hockey game of his son Charlie (Cross) and failing to fix the kitchen sink for wife Gabby (Preston), decides to give it a go, and then, halfway there, has a change of heart, necessitating a risky drive back home in the inclement Rocky Mountain weather. Needless to say, he never makes it, and after a poorly edited shot of his careening car, the film cuts to the dreaded "One Year Later" intertitle. Charlie is understandably down in the dumps on the anniversary of his father's demise, so much so that he can't even bring himself to retaliate against the vicious jeers and the clods of hardpack that the local bully sails his direction. While sharing some quality time (they're watching Stevie Ray Vaughan's Couldn't Stand the Weather, and how's that for some grim symbolism?) with dad's old bandmate Mac (Addy of The Full Monty), Charlie decides to build a snowman in his front yard. Taking along Jack's battered old hat and scarf, his son builds a decent approximation of dear old dad, sheds a tear or two, and then tramps off to bed, only to be awakened by his reincarnated snowman/dad at 2am. Chagrined, father and son learn to live, love, and weep together, though why this new version of Jack Frost feels inclined to hide his frigid identity from his wife is anyone's guess. In short, there is absolutely nothing in Jack Frost that hasn't been done better before. Keaton seems to be telephoning in his lines from some other planet (odd pauses that don't quite fit litter his dialogue like squirrel spoor in a new-fallen snow), Cross has all the Plasticine appeal of a tree ornament, and Preston just plain looks and acts bewildered, plastering a perpetual, goonish grin across her face in favor of any solid emoting. Worst of all, Jack Frost sports some truly awful special effects courtesy of the usually brilliant Jim Henson's Creature Shop. Be it the use of faux snow that looks like the dog ends of previously owned Q-Tips or the successively worse series of blue-screened visuals, the film is shoddy from frame one. Sunlamp anyone? (12/18/98)

0 stars

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