Jack Frost is available to rent or buy now.
Everyone has a guilty pleasure when it comes to Christmas movies. These are the films that were panned by critics but somehow found a warm little spot in your heart over time. For me, Jack Frost is one of those movies. This ridiculed 1998 icy gem always manages to make me feel warm inside, so let me explain why Jack Frost deserves your attention this Christmas.
For three reasons, Jack Frost is somewhat unique in the landscape of generic Christmas kid’s films. First, Jack Frost is a movie aimed squarely at exploring male emotions. Second, it’s a film rooted in themes of childhood grief without any religious subtext, and three, it has the balls to kill off its lead on Christmas Day. Of course, it also has significant problems, from the fake snow to the odd mix of puppetry and early CGI, and when you add a relatively quick ending that melts faster than a snowman in a microwave, you have a rather strange mix of ideas. In fact, it would be fair to say that Jack Frost slips and slides its way through its runtime like a person wearing tap shoes on a frozen lake.
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Jack Frost (Michael Keaton) is a singer in a rock band that has never made it beyond successful local gigs in Colorado. But all that changes when an agent spots his group’s potential and invites the band to a contract meeting on Christmas Eve. Jack has spent years on the road aiming for success; in fact, it’s consumed his every waking thought. But, Jack is also a dad to eleven-year-old Charlie, and a husband to Gabby and his life on the road has taken a toll on family life.
When Jack breaks a promise to watch Charlie play in an ice-hockey match, Charlie once again finds himself relegated to second place behind the band, and so Jack promises to take Charlie and Gabby to their cabin in the mountains for a Christmas together with no distractions. But once again, Jack’s work gets in the way; after all, can he really turn down the invite to a potential contract signing on Christmas Eve?
However, as the band sets off, Jack changes his mind midway into their journey, opting to drive home to his family through a snowstorm. But this will be Jack’s final journey as he crashes the car on a mountain road on Christmas Day.
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We are then taken forward in time to the following Christmas, where Charlie, now twelve, struggles to process his dad’s death. Charlie’s emotions are a mix of anger, pain, and love as he attempts to deal with last Christmas’s sudden and tragic events. After a new fall of snow, Charlie decides to build a snowman in the garden, something he and Jack did every year. But, this snowman comes to life as the spirit of his father returns for one last magical Christmas with his son.
Jack Frost is focused entirely on a father and son relationship and the complex unspoken emotions that sit between them. This enables the film to delve into the world of male emotions and grief, a brave step for any family fantasy movie. However, even more, impressive is the film’s ability to dovetail this message with action and humour that appeals directly to the young boys sitting in the audience. Here, we have snowball fights, jokes about the male anatomy, ice hockey and snowboarding and while, at times, ham-fisted and random in its delivery; this is a film that wears its heart on its sleeve.
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It’s clear from the outset that Jack Frost is aimed squarely at a father/son audience, its mission to get both laughing and openly talking. This is to be commended, not ridiculed. And it may be the reason why Jack Frost has found a receptive audience over time, as themes of masculinity and emotion have come to the fore. Of course, that doesn’t mean Jack Frost is perfect; in many respects, it’s far from it. But maybe at its heart, Jack Frost was ahead of its time in exploring male emotion, grief and the need for communication and open conversation. And perhaps that is why this slightly bizarre yet tender slice of Christmas fantasy found a place in my heart over time and equally deserves critical reappraisal.