To anyone who grew up in the colder climes, the prospect of a snow day was a ray of sunshine. The slightest flurry before midnight could infuse students and teachers alike with the breathless hope that sunrise would bring a winter wonderland, one dominated by radio announcements of school cancellations galore. Unfortunately, that anticipatory glee hardly finds fruition in Chris Koch's feature-film debut, "Snow Day."
Apparently trying to market the film to the widest possible demographic, the makers of "Snow Day" spin the activities of the family Branston into four separate storylines, all of which come off as weak imitations of the much more effective efforts of John Hughes.
The central narrative follows prepubescent tomboy Natalie (the perky, sickeningly sweet Zena Grey), who conspires with two male friends to derail Snowplowman (Chris Elliott), a disgusting rube who seems to possess the amazing power to clear all of the city streets of Syracuse, N.Y., within one day. The kids figure that if they can somehow stall his efforts, they will for the first time in history be allowed not only one but two of the miraculous snow days.
The kids' battle with the bumbling Snowplowman has all of the elements of "Home Alone" but little of its humor. Sure, younger viewers may feel empowered by the knowledge that their peers can battle a moronic grownup, but the biggest laughs in the sequence stem from a child whose flatulence problem grows out of control.
In its effort to appeal to the teenage crowd, "Snow Day" finds Natalie's older brother, Hal (Mark Webber), seizing his day off to pursue the girl of his dreams, the apparently unattainable Claire (Emmanuelle Chriqui). He is assisted in this pursuit by his best friend, Lane (Schuyler Fisk, daughter of Sissy Spacek), who harbors her own infatuation with Hal. Fisk is one of the bright lights in the film, but Chriqui's acting is as flat as a freshly plowed driveway.
Rounding out the ensemble are the Branston parents. Tom (Chevy Chase) is an aging and beleaguered meteorologist whose forecast of the impending snowstorm is overshadowed by the flashy antics of hotshot young weatherman Chad Symmonz ("The Dukes of Hazzard's" John Schneider). Schneider tears into the role of the charismatic yet insipid Chad with glee, but Chase, who seems to have lost any sense of comic timing, does little more than stumble through a series of mostly unfunny sight gags.
In a role that would have Dr. Laura Schlesinger up in arms, Jean Smart plays the family's workaholic mom (also named Laura), who finds herself unable to get to work and is forced to stay home to care for her toddler (played by newcomer Connor Matheus). It's never explained why the other children are able to wander the whole town and her husband to make it in to work while she remains housebound, bonding with little Randy via a snowball fight.
Pam Grier and Iggy Pop both play against type in unmemorable cameo performances.
In its attempt to construct a family film that's geared to every member of the family, the "Snow Day" team fails miserably. Only one element of the typical brood -- the under-12 contingent -- may find this mild flurry amusing.
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