Christmas Special Review- Frosty Returns

Where does one begin with Frosty Returns? Well, I supposed I could start out by simply saying that it is not recommended in the least and what follows will illustrate why:

Firstly, there is a stylistic incongruity to this special that’s hard to get over. The first few scenes set up different locations but are animated as if they are splicing scenes out of different projects. There is no sense of visual unity to the front end of the piece but it’s a problem that never fully rights itself.

Then there is the absolutely odd mixture of voice talents. The first mistake this special made in that regard was to carry on the tradition of creating a character that looks like the actor doing the narration. With the shoddy animation work and the fact that you have Jonathan Winters and not Jimmy Durante it’s a failed homage. You get a grab bag of comedic actors: Jan Hooks, Andrea Martin and Brian Doyle-Murray. Notable amongst the kids is Michael Patrick Carter a few year before his only true claim to fame in Milk Money.

Then there is John Goodman as Frosty, which ends up being the most troubling and much of the why doesn’t even have to do with him. He’s given quite a bit of weak dialogue to work with, nothing even shining a candle to what came before, and we all know John Goodman can sing but then he’s given songs not quite in his range and it wouldn’t work because the lyrics are terrible.

Then there’s this asinine plot about this aerosol type spray that will remove the snow, ruin a festival and the environment and in this crazed little town a majority of the kids hate snow, which is really weird.

If this hadn’t been included in the holiday specials set I got I never would’ve sought it out it really is an unfortunate misfire in all respects.

Review- Alabama Moon

Uriah Shelton, Jimmy Bennett and Gabriel Basso in Alabama Moon (Faulkner-McLean Entertainment)

Alabama Moon is a film whose road to distribution was a long and winding one. In fact, it’s eventual home video release (which is how I ended up seeing it) was delayed because it finally got a limited regional release in the Gulf states, mainly Alabama (naturally). It’s worth noting that this model is not unusual. The straight-to-video release isn’t as profitable as it once was, and for some reason just as maligned even in this Streaming Age, so limited releases will act as a springboard for DVD sales.

Alabama Moon tells the tale of young Moon Blake, a boy who is raised in the woods by an eccentric father who is wary of both modernity and the government. Very early on, and rendered rather dramatically, Moon loses his father and much of the film will deal with how Moon tries to cope on his own, while trying to avoid authorities like a bumbling quasi-humorous cop played by Clint Howard or the clutches of a reformatory.

The standout of the film is the performance of Jimmy Bennett, who plays Moon Blake. He was most recently JJ on No Ordinary Family but is perhaps known for playing young James T. Kirk in the Star Trek reboot. While Bennett has played in much grittier, darker and dramatic vehicles before such as Trucker and The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things this may just be his best performance to date. This role demands a lot of him not just in terms of highly-charged emotional scenes but also some comedic timing is required and he needs to be a grounded normal-seeming character in the film’s goofier moments. As I tweeted immediately after watching it he basically makes it worth watching on his own and is “crazy good.”

There are other performances of note as well. Those deserving first mention are Moon’s friends played by Gabriel Basso and Uriah Shelton respectively. They play very different kinds of characters but are equally good foils because it never seems unnatural that Moon would befriend either because they both seem to reflect disparate aspects of his personality both a fighter and a quiet, solitary type.

The adult casting offers more mixed results. John Goodman’s character thankfully plays a more crucial role later in the film than it seems he will early on and is very well played. Then we come to the last key figure which is the police officer played by Clint Howard. Now merely casting Clint Howard, or that you can cast him in the part, is already an indication of how you intend to play a part. Howard can play a creepy menacing type but more often than not he’s goofy and here he’s like a mean-spirited Barney Fife only less competent.

It’s in that writing and casting decision where the die is cast that the tone of the film will be a balancing act between very serious drama in a coming-of-age vein and lighthearted borderline screwball comedy that must counterbalance one another. It is to this film’s credit that it manages to keep them both in check and make the film both light viewing and emotionally engaging at the same time and also some of that credit once again goes to the cast.

The film manages to deal with quite a few themes in a subtler than expected manner despite the variegated tone. One of the main ones being individuation from parents specifically that one can accept their parents’s faults, love them for who they are and learn from them but must eventually learn to see the the world, and interact with it, in their own way.

It may be easy to read this review and see why this film has fallen through the cracks as it’s not exactly the easiest to pigeonhole, however, I hope that in reading this review you have also found it is worth your time.

I was rather pleasantly surprised by this film and I’m very glad I tracked it down.

8/10