Jack Frost

Oh, the weather outside is frightful, but not nearly as frightful as “Jack Frost,” possibly the oddest and least comforting holiday family film to come around since David Cronenberg’s “Crash.”

Michael Keaton has gone from “Batman” to “Snowman” in a career that should land him in one of those Old Navy Performance Fleece commercials. Wasn’t he the one fighting over a bone with Magic?

I would love to have been the fly on the wall in the meeting where Keaton got the role.

“So what have you got for me,” Keaton anxiously asks his agent.

“There’s good news and bad news,” says Agent Orange.

“So what’s the good news,” Keaton tosses back.

“Well, we almost had you in a movie-of-the-week. “The Markie Post Story.” They wanted you to play Lee Majors from “The Fall Guy” era.”

“I would be great as Lee Majors,” Keaton assures his agent.

“That’s the bad news. Lee Majors has much more clout than you, so he’s going to play himself.”

“Damn,” shouts Keaton. “That darn Lee Majors curse. Is it going to follow me throughout my career? I’ll show him. Is there anything else?”

“Well, we just got a script for this new family comedy,” mentions Agent Orange. “Perfect,” counters Keaton. I’ve always been good in family films. What’s it called?” “Jack Frost,” utters the agent, knowing what question will follow.

“Great,” shouts Keaton. “And I’m the star, right?”

“Yes,” beams the agent.

“How many lines do I have,” Keaton asks, giddy like a child who just found out he didn’t get underwear for Christmas.

“You have more lines than anyone else in the film” Agent Orange reassures Keaton.

“So who do I play?” Keaton asks.

“You’re this musician father who neglects his wife and kid,” continues the Agent.

“Yeah, yeah, that sounds good,” Keaton says. “I like music.”

“Then you die and come back as a snowman,” the Agent sheepishly mentions.

“What do you mean I come back as a snowman?” counters Keaton? “I’m not going to sit for eight hours in a make-up chair to play a snowman.”

“That’s the good news. You won’t have to. Your character dies a half hour into the film, and through a magical cinematic device, you come back as a snowman,” the Agent sums up.

“Let me get this straight. I’m going to play a character who dies in the first half hour of the film, and then comes back as a snowman? What kind of crap is that?” shouts Keaton, flipping through his day planner to see if he still has time to audition for that Hemorrhoid commercial. “I can’t believe they had the nerve to come to me first with this asinine idea.”

“Well, actually, you weren’t their first choice,” the agent coyly lets slip.

“So who turned down this film?” Keaton demands.

“Chris Farley, John Belushi, Andy Kaufman, John Candy….”

“All of those guys are dead” exclaims Keaton, checking his pulse.

“Your name was down at the bottom with Abe Vigoda,” said the Agent.

“I thought Abe Vigoda was dead,” said a puzzled Keaton. How could this happen?

Indeed, how could something as badly ill-conceived like “Jack Frost” even make it past the discussion point? The guys who made this pitch should be congratulated for finding a studio executive who was so doped up on cold medicine and Nathan’s Hot Dogs that they couldn’t see what a bad idea this really is.

Michael Keaton isn’t bad as Jack Frost, a man who is so in love with his dream of being a musician that he neglects his wife Gabby (Kelly Preston) and son Charlie (Joseph Cross).

So desperate is Jack to be a better father that he fluffs off a Christmas Eve gig to be with his family. Unfortunately, Jack never makes it home. He dies in an auto accident. Gabby is sad. Charlie is sad. I’m sad.

A year passes and another Christmas is soon approaching. Charlie, now more dysfunctional than ever, plays up the dead father angle for more than a few teary-eyed moments. Then he builds a snowman in the front yard. It’s not a great snowman, but it does remind Charlie of a happier time.

That evening, Charlie plays a special harmonica his father gave him, which he obviously ordered from the Dionne Warwick Psychic Friends hotline. After playing a few notes, Charlie goes to sleep, and then something magical happens. No, the film doesn’t end.

Instead, thanks to a flurry of computer generated snow and B.S., Jack returns as the snowman in the front yard. If that isn’t creepy enough, the father and son reunion is even more chilling.

The mechanics of the screenplay by four different writers is so formulaic you want to drag out the blow torch and put the snowman to rest.

Of course Charlie is the only one who knows the snowman is actually his dad, although Gabby suspects something is up. He may not be the man she remembers, but at least he’s hard-packed.

So Jack Frost gets one more opportunity to make-up for being an absentee father, and makes the most of it. He helps Charlie fends off some bullies, teaches the kid the perfect hockey shot, and brings mother and son closer together before becoming a snow cone vendor’s wet dream.

It’s all supposed to be cuddly and warm, but there’s something extremely frigid about this film. The mere idea of a deceased parent coming back as a snowman is frightening, not funny. I mean, if you rip off a snowman’s branches, does he not bleed? If you remove the lumps of coal from his eyes, does he not see? Does he not thaw with the Spring sun?

So many questions and so little effort to explain any of them.

Don’t point fingers at the cast (unless their fly is open). Keaton, Preston and Cross do an okay job with less than okay material. They’re forced to say lines that even bimbos willing to have sex to get into a porn film wouldn’t utter without shame.

Mark Addy, last seen baring his buns in “The Full Monty,” plays Frost’s best friend who tried to comfort the family. You can tell he’s just spinning his wheels waiting for the “Flintstones” prequel to start filming.

The worst part of the film is the snowman itself. A combination of Jim Henson’s Creature Shop animatronics and computer effects, the snowman is possibly the worst special effect’s character since that little monkey creature in “Lost in Space” (No, not Lacey Charbet).

You not only have to suspend disbelief, you have to escort it out the door, walk it down the street, and put it on a plane headed for nowhere. The snowman looks like he was made out of felt and potato flakes.

With “Jack Frost,” it’s obvious Hollywood didn’t serve all of their turkey at Thanksgiving. Nope, they still had plenty left over to give us the “bird” with this slippery slope of film. I bet that bat cape is looking mighty good about right now.

“JACK FROST”: SNOW BALLED!

JACK FROST

Michael Keaton, Kelly Preston, Mark Addy and Joseph Cross in a film directed by Troy Miller. Rated PG. 95 Min.

LARSEN RATING: $2


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