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Monday, December 16, 2013

Jack Frost (1998)

Hello there, everybody! I can't believe that we're less than ten days away from Christmas! And, I can't believe that in less than two weeks from now, we'll be wrapping up “THE POP CULTURE ADDICT'S ADVENT CALENDAR” for another year. I can't believe that we're already at Day #16 already!

But don't worry. I've got a few more holiday themed topics on my to-do list, and I promise you that the next nine days will be filled with lots of fun, excitement, and well...snow!

Don't believe me about the snow? Well, try this on for size! I decided to do a video introduction for today's featured Monday Matinee. And the reason why I have done this is because today's topic kind of matches up with the theme of today's blog!

So, have a look at the video introduction. Such as it is.

Okay, so in filming this video, I learned a couple of things. One, never film a video using an iPad mini in a snowstorm. It took everything in me to try and keep my composure as snowflakes kept melting on the touch screen. But, hey, I was only outside for two or three minutes, so I don't think I did any permanent damage to it. I mean, it still works fine, and I do have a protective cover on it.

Two, I should probably have made up a script for the introduction rather than go live. As I have explained before, public speaking is definitely not my forte, and this video is kind of a painful reminder as to why that is. Not that it's absolutely one hundred per cent horrible, but I would never win an award at the Sundance Film Festival for it either...or even an A+ in a high school film making class.

And, three, I actually filmed this video piece the day before, on December 15. There was only one rare opportunity in which the snow was still falling, and I wanted to make sure I caught that opportunity while I still has the chance. Of course, as I look out my window on the early morning hours of the 16th, it is snowing again. But, that's the chance you take, right?

At any rate, as mentioned in the video above, I'm going to be discussing the 1998 holiday film “Jack Frost”, which starred Michael Keaton, Kelly Preston, Joseph Cross, and at least three of the four children that Frank Zappa fathered during his lifetime!

Now, as I was trying to explain in the video blog introduction (not exactly clearly, might I add), Jack Frost is the guy who makes wintery things happen during the coldest days of the year. With just one touch of the finger, Jack Frost can freeze trees, flowers, fields, and other things by coating them with either white fluffy snow or solid, frozen ice sheets. And, of course, his time for play usually takes place during the months of December and March.

(Or, if you happen to live in Canada, Jack Frost can make an appearance in October or even September!)

Now, in most cases, Jack Frost takes on more or less the same form. In most examples of pop culture that I can find, Jack Frost resembles a creature similar to an elf. Sometimes he can be as cute as a Smurf, while other times, he can appear as unique looking as Dobby the house elf from the Harry Potter series. Depending on the television program or book you may have seen a reference to Jack Frost in, Jack can vary between a guy who is cool yet misunderstood to a complete and total villain, determined to turn the world into a gigantic snow ball.

(Actually, that last sentence certainly describes Mr. Freeze from Batman as well.  Maybe I'm confusing the two and don't know it.)

In the case of this movie, Jack Frost comes in a couple of different forms.  But worry not.  Both are the good version of Frost...though when we are first introduced to him, he may not appear to be all that good.

You see, Jack Frost is a living, breathing human being at the beginning of the movie.  Frost (Keaton) is the frontman of his band "The Jack Frost Band" (lamest name ever, might I add).  He's not only the lead singer of the band, but he also plays the harmonica.  Together with his bandmates, Jack Frost tours various places in Colorado performing blues standards in hopes of landing a record deal to make it big.

And, for what it's worth, "The Jack Frost Band" sounds pretty good.  Certainly one of the most liveliest versions of "Frosty the Snowman" that I've ever heard!

Of course, Jack Frost's quest for fame comes at a cost.  Because of his commitment touring all over the state as well as using all of his energy to create new songs to submit as demos for record company executives, he doesn't get to spend as much time with his wife Gabby (Preston) and his son Charlie (Cross) as he would like to.  Any moment that he gets to spend with his family are few and far between, but regardless, Charlie and Jack make the most of their time together when they have it.  And one day, when Jack is home for the whole day, he and Charlie build their own version of "Frosty the Snowman", which Jack offers to help him build following a confrontation that Charlie has with a bully named Rory (Taylor Handley).  

Jack also gives Charlie a small present.  It's a harmonica that Jack received as a present on the day that Charlie was born.  It is Jack's most prized possession, and he wanted Charlie to have it, telling him that the harmonica has magical powers and that whenever he hears it, he'll be there.

Unfortunately, it's a rare moment of bonding that we see, as fate does everything it can to keep Jack away from his wife and child.  Jack promises his wife that he will be in attendance at Charlie's hockey game, but blows it off to record the ironically named song "Don't Lose Your Faith".  To make it up to them, Jack promises that he will give them a good old-fashioned Christmas vacation in the mountains of Colorado, but when "The Jack Frost Band" is given the opportunity of a lifetime, Jack decides that the gig is more important than Christmas with his family because if he lands a record deal, he'll be able to provide for his family better than he currently could.

What a twisted argument, huh?  He certainly wouldn't be named father of the year with that attitude, would he?

But, wait.  Jack Frost has a change of heart, and he decides that midway through the journey to the gig, he wants to go back home to spend Christmas with his family.  He borrows the car of his friend/keyboardist Mac MacArthur (Mark Addy), and drives back home.  And he almost makes it except for the fact that there's a really big snowstorm that day, and Mac's car doesn't have functional windshield wipers.  The end result, Jack crashes the car, and Frost is put on ice.  Permanently.

Flash forward a whole year, and Charlie is incredibly depressed over the death of his father.  He doesn't play hockey much any more, he withdraws from his friends, and he doesn't even feel much like celebrating Christmas at all.  His mother tries to help, but all Charlie wants is his father back.

Inspired by one of the final activities that Charlie did with Jack while he was still alive, Charlie builds a replica of the snowman that he and Jack built, and that night, he plays with the harmonica that Jack gave him just before the accident.  

Turns out that the "magic" that Jack promised that the harmonica had within it was more real than either Jack or Charlie had thought because when Charlie played the harmonica, Jack is resurrected... the form of the snowman that Charlie built.

And, needless to say, when Jack tries to stage a warm reunion with Charlie, Charlie runs away in terror, leaving Jack feeling a little...well, cold.

Eventually, Charlie begins to piece everything together, and realizes that the living, breathing, snowman is his father's spirit, and the rest of the movie depicts Jack and Charlie trying to reconnect with each other once more.  But Jack only has a limited amount of time to share a lifetime of lessons with his son.  When the spring thaw comes, his time will be gone forever.  What's a recently re-animated snowman to do?

Well, I don't think I can really go into further detail in this case.  I'd be spoiling too much of the plot of the movie, and as you all know, I don't like spoiling movies, no matter how old they get...or in this case, how poorly received they were.

You see, "Jack Frost" was a box office bomb.  The producers actually spent more money making the film than the amount of money it took in at the box office.  Critics tore the film to shreds, and it was widely considered to be one of the worst holiday films of the 1990s.

But you know, watching this movie after a decade and a half has gone by, I don't think it's nearly as bad as people made it out to be.  Mind you, it'll never be up to the standards of "It's A Wonderful Life", "Miracle on 34th Street", or even "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation", but for a holiday movie...well, I'd watch it again.

Well, we might as well end this blog topic off with a little bit of trivia.

1 - The snowman costume was designed by Jim Henson's Creature Shop.

2 - Believe it or not, George Clooney was originally supposed to play Jack Frost.  But when Clooney was offered the role of Batman in "Batman & Robin", he couldn't turn it down as he had always wanted to play Batman.

3 - Clooney leaving the project caused headaches for the Jim Henson Creature Shop, because they had to redo the entire costume!

4 - I mentioned earlier in the entry that three of Frank Zappa's kids appeared in the movie.  Dweezil played the role of a music executive, Ahmet was a snow plow driver, and Moon Unit played the role of a teacher.  

5 - Mark Addy, who played Mac in the film had just completed the movie "The Full Monty" when he was offered the role in "Jack Frost".

6 - This wouldn't be the first time that Joseph Cross and Michael Keaton would star in a film together.  The two also appeared together in the film "Desperate Measures".

7 - One of Eli's friends is played by Andrew Lawrence, the younger brother of "Blossom" star Joey Lawrence and "Boy Meets World" star Matthew Lawrence.

And, well...that's all the trivia I could unearth for this film.  Apparently, nobody cared enough to come up with more than that.

But I do have a very special surprise for the Tuesday Timeline entry for tomorrow...otherwise known as Day #17 of the Advent Calendar.  Not only will we be featuring a holiday television episode, but this holiday television episode happens to also be the PILOT episode of a long-running series!

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