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Bob Smithouser

Movie Review

When an unexpected snowstorm buries Syracuse, New York, the kids celebrate a day off from school while their elders mourn the inconvenience. The children keep reminding us, “anything can happen on a snow day,” which means the world is their oyster and the extra down time can be used to change a person’s life forever. Four story lines run parallel to one another, each involving a member of the Brandston clan. Teenage Hal decides to express his affection for the girl of his dreams, the unattainable Claire whose on-again-off-again relationship with “dumb jock” Chuck is off-again—at least until lunch. He gets help from his friend Lane, a girl who is obviously a better match for him if his obsession with Claire ever subsides long enough for him to notice it. Meanwhile, Hal’s younger sister Natalie is on a quest to rid the town of Snowplowman long enough to earn everyone a second snow day. Dad (Chase) struggles to maintain his dignity as a serious meteorologist forced to wear goofy costumes during his TV weather reports in a desperate attempt to boost sagging ratings caused by a pretty-boy rival. And Mom (Smart) juggles a business career and family duties—an act which becomes more complicated when the storm forces her to simultaneously telecommute and harness the undisciplined energy of her youngest child. In each case, happy endings are guaranteed.

Positive Elements: Mom’s workaholism clearly has a negative effect on the family, but by the end of the day she has rediscovered the real joy of motherhood, ignoring her big meeting to frolic in the snow with her young son. Despite a few sibling barbs, Hal and Natalie share a caring, unselfish relationship. Dad speaks lovingly to his children and shares a bond of mutual respect. Lane tells Hal, “Love isn’t about fate and magic bracelets and destiny. It’s about finding someone you can stand to be around for ten minutes at a time.” Lane suppresses her own romantic attraction to Hal and actually helps him try to woo Claire, wanting him to find happiness even if she can’t be the one to share it with him. After expending tremendous energy to earn a kiss from Claire, Hal realizes the value and depth of his friendship with Lane and walks away from his fantasy girl to tell her so (lesson: infatuation doesn’t satisfy like being with someone you know and enjoy). Dad wrings a public confession out of his professional nemesis, Chad Symmonz, which proves honesty and hard work are respected more than cheating.

Spiritual Content: None.

Sexual Content: None, though a voluptuous girl wears tight tops.

Violent Content: Lots of slapstick humor in which no one is seriously hurt. Snowball fights abound (the school principal is mercilessly assaulted throughout the film). A snowmobile chase ends with boys being battered by tree branches and thrown from their vehicles. Chuck bullies Hal and threatens to pound him before being snowplowed into a great big mound of white stuff. Nasty Snowplowman shoves a child and later straps him to the front of his plow. Young children may also be frightened by a scene involving the retelling of a dark town legend (it’s rumored that Snowplowman got the chains for his tires from the braces of kids he ran over).

Crude or Profane Language: No profanity, but there are several crude expressions (“kiss my butt,” “crappy,” “el sucko,” “dirtbag,” “I gotta whiz”).

Drug and Alcohol Content: None.

Other Negative Elements: A chubby boy experiences frequent flatulence which is played for laughs. Mom has a thing for good luck charms (fortunately, they always wind up not working). Authority figures, including a nerdy school principal, the unhygienic Snowplowman and a square deejay at the local ice rink, are portrayed as dopey adults unworthy of respect. Little Natalie and her friends tie up Snowplowman and hijack his rig, driving around town to “undo” his work and guarantee another day off (she can barely see over the wheel and has never driven before, but while awash in rooting interest, viewers aren’t supposed to worry that she’ll kill someone in the process).

Summary: A surprisingly watchable story of juvenile empowerment courtesy of the folks at Nickelodeon. Parents may object to a few crude moments, choice words or, in the case of young children, intense scenes, but Snow Day minds its target audience by avoiding the harsher content allowed by a PG rating. Even the disrespect shown to certain authority figures is balanced by decent, loving (if somewhat slow to discipline) adults in the home. Viewers of all ages should be able to identify with at least one of the movie’s good-hearted plot strands, though teens will probably resist such “tame” fare while the humor may be a bit mean-spirited for little ones. Granted, Snow Day isn’t deep, meaningful entertainment likely to make a permanent impression. Chances are, memories of it will melt away like a 90-minute flurry. Use discretion, but for some families willing to dissect the content with their preteens, this film is a reasonably harmless way to kill a snow day.

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Bob Smithouser