Movies of My Yesterdays: Snow Day

I saw this movie in a theater, but it wasn’t one I chose. A friend had a movie party for his birthday, and I don’t think I knew what we were going to see until we got to the theater. It seems like the kind of movie that was selected more based on what was playing on the date they wanted to have a party than because it was anyone’s first choice, but I remember it was fun in a very late 90s/early 00s Nickelodeon way. I must have recognized Chevy Chase at the time but I completely do not remember him. Actually, the main thing I remember about this day aside from some shots of kids and adults in snow is that it was the first time I heard of Superman ice cream.

Snow Day. Nickelodeon Movies 2000.

In a small neighborhood in upstate New York, an unseasonably warm winter suddenly gets a massive snowfall, and to the delight of all the kids in town, a snow day is declared. Hal and Natalie Brandston’s father Tom Brandston, the third-rated meteorologist in a three-station town, is hoping that having been the first to predict and report on the storm will be his ticket to pulling ratings over showboat weatherman Chad Symmonz and escaping the demeaning costume stunts his producer keeps forcing on him. Natalie’s friends Wayne and Chet make it their mission to stymie the Snowplowman, and maybe for once get a second snow day in a row. Hal spends all day trying to get the attention of Claire, the most popular girl in school, seeing it as destiny that he found her bracelet on the day that Claire broke up with her bully boyfriend Chuck, and drags his friend Lane along in his stunts even as she tries to get him to see how delusional he is.

In rewatching this movie, I didn’t come up with any concrete memories of how I felt at the time, but all the same, the sinking realization that the younger kids’ vendetta with the Snowplowman was relegated to the B-plot behind the high school boy’s quest for unrequited love that doesn’t at all need a snow day to take place on felt very, very familiar. In 2000, I was about the age of the younger kids in the movie, and while I never had the magical adventures this movie invokes of snow days with rose-tinted screenwriter glasses (as an indoorsy kid who lived on unwalkable roads nowhere near any friends, snow days were spent in our house probably watching TV under a blanket and meant relaxation), I think I was very disappointed that the whole concept of “kids having a snow day” got sidelined for a romance plot. They say kids are most interested in the next step up as a preview of what they can expect, but in this case, why would you have a movie called “snow day” and not center actual snow day adventures? It’s hard to push past that fault plus how tired the “guy can’t see the girl right next to him because he’s only got eyes for the unobtainable girl” plot is and get too objective on whether Hal is as lacking in relatability as it seems.

While the movie makes a point of saying how close Hal and Natalie usually are, and how they would usually be playing together on a snow day but he ditched her to go chase his dream girl, I really wish we’d gotten to see that somehow, so it means more to us to see them separate. When they’re together they speak warmly to each other, aside from Natalie being kind of resentful of how obsessed Hal has gotten, but the most significant interaction they have is Hal telling Natalie not to play with his collection of action figures that he wants to keep in pristine condition so he can sell them as a set. Oddly, Natalie acts like they’ve previously played with them before since she identifies him with a specific member of the group of figures.

Natalie’s friends are another missed opportunity. Wayne is marked by being the fat, wimpy kid who’s good for getting damseled and letting the filmmakers substitute farts for jokes, while Chet is… also there. Apparently Wayne and Chet made a snow cave that they were going to hang out with Natalie and Hal in that they brought a video game console out to, but it’s only used in one scene and destroyed by the Snowplowman to make him an extra-personal villain. The snow cave is the kind of thing one would expect to make up the main focus of the movie.

I think I need to come to the conclusion that the best part of this movie, at least as an adult, is Chevy Chase’s subplot, because it’s exactly what it’s supposed to be/ought to be. I think he won the crowd a bit too easily in the end, but this is a movie for middle schoolers and there isn’t really time for something more realistic.

While this is fun, especially for kids, it’s definitely an unbalanced script and isn’t primarily interested in what it claims to be interested in. It’s really hard to put aside all the small ways it disappoints and enjoy it for what it is when it isn’t even concerned with being what it says it is. There are some good seeds of movies in here, but the execution was almost entirely lacking.

Spirited Away

Spirited Away
(Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi). Studio Ghibli 2001.

Before watching the movie:

I don’t know anything about this movie except that it seems to pretty consistently be considered the best Studio Ghibli movie. And I recall the title refers to something about the character being stuck in a place of spirits. I’ve seen most of Kiki’s Delivery Service, but that’s all of Ghibli I’ve seen despite having several friends and former roommates who have extensive collections.

I rarely go into movies as cold as this. Usually I have descriptions from boxes or streaming platforms, but with this one, I just decided “we’re going to watch this movie everyone loves”.

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Space Cowboys

Space Cowboys. Malpaso/Mad Chance. 2000.

Before watching the movie:

What happens when a bunch of engineers who became ranchers or something I guess go into space to fix a satellite only they can fix? This movie, apparently.

I get the conceit that these engineers are being called out of retirement to fix space-based equipment that was designed on standards nobody learns anymore, and it takes less time to train the experts to be astronauts than to train the astronauts to be experts for the same reason as Armageddon, Because that’s how you get a movie.

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Small Time Crooks

Small Time Crooks. Sweetland Films 2000.

Before watching the movie:

From what I’m seeing, this is basically the story of criminals who accidentally go into legitimate business. It also looks like it builds increasing farce until it implodes, and has a focus on letting the actors be zany and possibly improvisational. I always think of Woody Allen as a very script-oriented comedian, but the rest of the cast seem like they could riff.

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Best in Show

Best in Show. Castle Rock Entertainment 2000.
Best in Show. Castle Rock Entertainment 2000.

Before watching the movie:

I’ve probably been aware of this movie since shortly after it came out. I remember for years seeing it on the shelf at the library, picking it up, and putting it down again. It always looked like something I should be interested in, but it never grabbed me. It’s about a dog show. It’s a mockumentary. It’s by Christopher Guest. And none of that ever really put it over the edge for me, until now.

For an improvisational mockumentary with a huge cast, the only thing I know to expect is that I can’t predict anything.

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Charlie’s Angels

Charlie's Angels. Columbia Pictures 2000.

Before watching the movie:

Action. Comedy. Probably little to do with the TV series, but attached to one anyway. Angels.

Apparently the martial arts angle is an addition to the TV series. Having only been exposed to promos for the movies and that famous bathing suit photo of Farrah Fawcett, fighting is an integral part of my understanding of the show. Not that watching the movie is going to help me understand what else there was (probably espionage infiltrations).

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Unbreakable

Unbreakable. Touchstone Pictures 2000.

Before watching the movie:

M. Night Shyamalan’s works have had a wide range of quality. It originally seemed as though his output just got worse over time, but in the light of not only the glaring plot holes in The Sixth Sense, but also the fact that some have noted a similarity to an episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark,  it may be considered that Unbreakable is Shyamalan’s real zenith of quality.

So why is it the movie I’m the least familiar with? My guess is that while “6th Sense” has a lasting buzz, and I was paying attention to the ad campaigns of the later films, Unbreakable stands in my blind spot. Too old for me to notice, too average to remark on. Here I go remarking on it.

From what I understand, it’s a deconstruction of superhero stories. Not terribly original and not well-timed. (Superhero movies were about to have a classical comeback after America went into security blanket mode, but nobody could have predicted that.) All the same, I hear good things about this film, and I expect good things.

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