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Movie review: 'Snowmen'
“Snowmen” has far more going on than its fluffy exterior suggests. A small-scale family film with a limited release schedule, “Snowmen” nevertheless has all the characteristics of a perennial television favorite, and after it blows through theaters, perhaps it will achieve that status.
Robert Kirbyson's directorial debut, now showing at AMC Crossroads 16, stars newcomer Bobby Coleman as Billy Kirkfield, a boy whose recent rounds of chemotherapy necessitate his wearing a knit cap wherever he goes in his snow-filled Midwestern town. Billy and his friends Howard (Bobb'e J. Thompson of “Role Models”) and Lucas (Christian Martyn) are careening around snowbanks one day when they dislodge a minor avalanche, revealing the body of an old man.
Even in a place where the snow is several feet deep and the drifts look like ski slopes, this event still shakes up the town, and Billy, whose sense of his own mortality is magnified far beyond the scope of his buddies, feels that he must respect the honor of this old, forgotten gentleman by doing something bold with the time he has left. Several ideas get thwarted by Jason Bound (Josh Flitter), a hulking bully preying on his younger and smaller schoolmates, but then he sets his sights on a goal: breaking the record set in Japan for the number of snowmen in a single space.
As anyone who studies video store shelves knows, far too many brain-dead kid comedies are set in winter wonderlands, and yet “Snowmen” is an unusually well-crafted story about achievement against odds that takes some uncommon chances with its telling. For one, Billy announces in voice-over narration near the beginning that he eventually will die in this story. A thoughtful and nuanced view of death pervades “Snowmen,” and there are children in the film who treat the subject with total insensitivity. This breaks two cardinal rules in modern children's films: (1) viewers should never doubt that everything will be all right, and (2) the line between simple bullying and outright sociopath behavior should not be crossed.
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PG 1:26 3 stars
Starring: Bobby Coleman, Ray Liotta, Christopher Lloyd, Bobb'e J. Thompson.
(Thematic material, some rough bullying and peril, language and brief juvenile humor)