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.

Movies of My Yesterdays: National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

I recall this movie coming into the house through a joint garage sale with my aunt’s family. Or rather, I remember seeing the tape at one of the garage sales, and then I remember finding it in our collection months or years later. I don’t know why it didn’t interest me for a long time, but I think I didn’t get to it until I was in my 20s or late teens. I can’t recall now if the portion I saw on TV (I mainly remember hearing “Mele Kalikimaka” for the first time) got me interested, or if I was just going through the video collection and connected it with the Christmas movie everybody liked and decided to watch it for that reason. I’m a little surprised I didn’t seek it out when I was in my significant “all the traditions” phase, but I think I would’ve been scandalized at the time if I had.

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.
Hughes Entertainment 1989.

Clark Griswold and his family is hosting Christmas for the extended family for the first time, and Clark is determined to make it perfect. He marches his wife Ellen and their children deep into the forest to find The Perfect Tree, he blankets the house in 25,000 lights that he can’t get working, and packs every room with family members, including the son and daughter of his wife’s uninvited cousin Eddie, who drove the rusty trailer they live in to join the family. Clark is also starting to wonder where his Christmas bonus check is, which he badly needs to cover the deposit he already laid out to install a swimming pool.

I seem to recall that before I first saw the movie,I didn’t think the poster was very much help in understanding what it’s about, but the problem is that it’s an extremely episodic movie that doesn’t have a more significant overarching plot than “Clark tries to make a perfect Christmas for his extended family”, which is hard to convey on a poster. Just about every scene is a vignette of a crazy family Christmas, but the lights and the bonus check are the most consistent throughlines. So a lighting accident it is.

While it’s a Chevy Chase vehicle with many scenes stolen by Randy Quaid, this is the first time I noticed that Clark’s son Rusty is played by a young Johnny Galecki, best known for The Big Bang Theory. Even at the young age, there were moments where I recognized his acting style. My wife also pointed out that Beverly D’Angelo has a strong resemblance to Amy Pohler. I don’t know if any of the elderly uncles and grandparents are notable actors, but many of them are also doing very memorable character work.

This movie is somehow pitched to the point of absurdity yet relatable to the point it at times feels almost like a set of generic scenes of the Christmas experience. John Hughes may have hit a bigger classic with Home Alone, but I think this is better at creating the adult experience of Christmas. I suspect that there are people for whom it’s so relatable, it’s too stressful, like my experience watching The Long, Long Trailer so soon after driving a trailer across the country. It may not be a Christmas staple to me, but it’s always welcome. Because while we have plenty of opportunities to remember warmth and generosity at Christmas, it’s also just a real catharsis to have a laugh at the hassle we impose on ourselves too.

Funny Money

Funny Money. Thinkfactory Media 2006.

Before watching the movie:

I had an impression that Chevy Chase completely disappeared from whenever he left the Vacation movies in the 90s until the late 00s, when he suddenly resurfaced in Zoom, a Tim Allen vehicle about a retired superhero, and on Community. Apparently what he was actually doing at the time was starring in German/Romanian adaptations of British plays. An American company was also involved, but I sure don’t recall any significant American release.

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Fletch

Fletch. Universal Pictures 1985.
Fletch. Universal Pictures 1985.

Before watching the movie:

I always had the idea this was a movie extrapolated from a recurring Saturday Night Live character. My logic was that Fletch is often considered Chase’s most iconic character, and the title is simply the character’s name, as if we’re expected to already know him. When I got the disc and learned Fletch is a master of disguise, it just seemed more logical that this would be a vehicle movie to showcase Chase’s talents. I only found out just now that this is an adaptation of a novel.

Not much has changed in my expectations. I still expect some digressions to do characters more to be funny for a while than to advance the plot. However, since it’s based on a book, the plot will probably be a little more fully realized than with a typical vehicle movie.

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