Dyl’s Worst Christmas Ever: Jack Frost (1998)

Hello. Hi. How are ya? This is Dyl’s Worst Christmas Ever. I’m Dylan and I’m spending this holiday season reviewing some of the worst Christmas movies ever made. Why? Because it’s 2020. Christmas was going to suck anyways. Might as well double down. Today’s entry might be a bit controversial. I don’t know. It’s not as hated as some, but I don’t know that anyone actually loves it either. I know that I enjoyed it as a kid, but that was decades ago. Does it hold up? We’ll see I guess.

Jack Frost was somehow the second movie to come out in a two year span featuring a man named Jack Frost who dies and comes back as a snowman. However, in one movie, as we discussed, the guy is a serial killer who continues his rampage post death. In this one, Jack is a deadbeat dad who spends his newfound time repairing his relationship with his son. And I just want to know one thing. As a producer, how do you let this happen? I understand that movies take a long time to produce. I also understand that you’re not always aware of what studios are doing until their movie is released. But, why would you not at the very least change the title? That’s the easiest fix in the world. I’d argue that it’s a pretty important fix too. You do not want people mixing these two movies up? And, trust me, it’s doable. As a kid who was interested in seeing this movie, I was always mildly terrified of it in the video store. Because next to Michael Keaton’s smiling face, there was the most terrifying snowman I’d ever seen. Were they the same movie? Is that the snowman he becomes later on? Sometimes these stores had multiple VHS cases for one movie. Was that the case here? It was only after some reassurance from my mom that I was confident enough to give it a watch. Though, I still was waiting for it to get scary at any moment. 

So, other than sharing a name, basic concept, and almost release year with a shitty horror film, how is Jack Frost? It’s honestly pretty bland. There’s not a lot to write home about here. I thought I had forgotten the majority of this movie because it’s been so long. But, as it turns out, I forgot it because it’s, well, forgettable. Everything feels kind of “been there, done that.” Even the movie acknowledges it. I kid you not. This is an exact quote from the movie. Jack says, “Could the universe really be that unoriginal? Is it the name? If so, that’s not even clever.” Congratulations, movie, you just dissed yourself. You really are that unoriginal and not even all that clever. 

But, the biggest crime this movie committed has to be inflicting that snowman on the world. Because, honestly, that thing is unsettling. You could’ve put this snowman in the other Jack Frost movie and it would’ve worked just as well. There’s just something about those cold, dead eyes. And his mouth is just odd. It doesn’t quite move right. He has eyebrows for some reason. I guess to make him emote better, but I don’t like the idea of any hair being on snowpeople. Plus, it doesn’t help much. This puppet really can’t pull off anything more than a smile. There’s a scene where he watches tv with his son, emoting to each channel the kid puts on. And, half of the expressions were just uncomfortable. Like one of those dumb apps where you talk to AI and they make a quick facial expression before going back to normal. You know, that uncanny valley stuff. And, he walks weird. You’d think he’d glide. That’s what snowmen without legs have typically done. But, no, this guy moves his ball in this weird walking fashion. Like there are still legs within his ball. I’m so confused. But, you can’t call out the puppet too much, because it looks even worse when they have to throw CGI over it. Late 90s computers were not ready for that. Heck, I don’t think today’s computers could make it look compelling. And, maybe the biggest offense of all, this snowman looks nothing like Michael Keaton. It looks like George Clooney, who was originally tapped to star, but backed out to fill Keaton’s old role as Batman. However, production was too far along and they couldn’t just throw away the puppet. So, we’re stuck with a Clooney looking snowman that honestly looks worse than anything in Batman & Robin. I was ready to come in and trash the special effects department. I really was. Because, this is some awful stuff. Surely they must’ve gotten the cheapest effects studio they could to do this. Then, as the credits rolled, I saw Jim Henson Studios! Well, then… this is awkward. I guess you guys had a bit of a rough stretch there after Jim died, huh? I’m sorry. It’s not your fault. But, come on, that’s a really, really, really bad puppet. 

Lastly, I’ve got to talk about the crazy tonal shifts Jack Frost has. It’s kind of expected in a family film where a dead father turns into a snowman, but the abruptness of it all feels so strange. Tragic scenes of a child disappointed that his father isn’t spending enough time with him are quickly followed up by over the top snowball fights. Him reeling with the fact that his father might be back in his life is quickly undercut by a chase scene down a mountain that could only exist in 90s child entertainment. A moment where two children unite over the shared experience of losing a father is followed by the line, “Snow dad is better than no dad.” Touching moments are often followed up by sex jokes. Yes, I said often. There’s like, at least, eight different sex jokes in this movie. Which prides itself on being a family film. That’s what I’m saying this script is all over the place. It’s definitely possible to mix drama and comedy in things made for kids. Disney has been doing it for decades.  Elf has a touch of brokenheartedness to it. Heck, even The Santa Clause had a few darker moments. Unfortunately, this screenwriter doesn’t seem to understand how. 

Overall, I didn’t hate Jack Frost. I just didn’t enjoy it either. The special effects were bad. The tone was all over the place. And, the story wasn’t all that original. But, I wouldn’t wince if someone mentioned that this was their favorite Christmas movie. Ok, that’s a lie. I’d definitely judge them. It’s not an unfriend worthy offense though. And, compared to some of the stuff I’ve seen these past couple of weeks, that’s almost a compliment.

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