For many who grew up in the northeastern part of the United States, the words "snow day" still conjure up blissful memories of gathering around the radio, listening to the litany of weather-related cancellations with fingers crossed, and jumping for joy as the appropriate school name is intoned. For those with the misfortune to see the inept new comedy Snow Day, the pleasant feelings associated with the title phrase may well be eradicated forever.
The presence of former funnyman Chevy Chase should be enough of a red flag for childless adults, but parents of pre-teens are probably out of luck. A sort of throwback to the live action Disney kiddie flicks of the 70’s (The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes, Freaky Friday) as filtered through an 80’s John Hughes sensibility, Snow Day aims low and still misses the target. An opening voice-over stirs memories of Ferris Bueller, as fifteen-year-old Hal Brandston informs us that "on a snow day, anything can happen." The movie then sets out to prove him wrong. Only the least sophisticated of the toddlers in attendance will be unable to predict each and every development in this lazy by-the-numbers knockoff.
Chase plays Syracuse weatherman Tom Brandston, who lags in the ratings behind his much slicker cross-town competitor Chad Simmonz (John Schneider), even though he was first to predict the onslaught of a blizzard after an unseasonably warm winter. Tom’s wife Laura (Jean Smart) is a workaholic with little time to spend with her children until, of course, the intervention of Mother Nature. Daughter Natalie is a mischievous imp with a plan to bring about the mythical Second Snow Day by thwarting the efforts of the villainous Snow Plow Man (Chris Elliott). And son Hal is an affable teen, mooning after the school hottie Claire, unable to see that tomboyish Lane (Schuyler Fisk) is the one who truly cares for him.
Oddly enough, the teen romance plot takes up the bulk of Snow Day‘s running time, despite the fact that the six-year-old audience most of the humor is geared toward will not have the slightest interest in it. (Older kids will be too busy sneaking into Scream 3 to bother with such an innocuous trifle.) Youngsters will most likely be left fidgeting during the long stretches between the numerous crowd-pleasing shots of the school principal being pelted with snowballs.
The gags are just as moldy as the storylines, courtesy of the screenplay by Will McRobb and Chris Viscardi (who previously teamed to bring us the Nickelodeon cartoon program "Kablam!"). One typical zinger: "Last year it was El Nino, this year it’s El Sucko." Chase – or rather a stunt double photographed from a great distance – does some of his patented pratfalls and dons a series of silly costumes as a substitute for giving a comedic performance. This is no surprise – Chase has been sleepwalking through movies at least since Ronald Reagan’s first term – but what’s Chris Elliott’s excuse? It’s disheartening to see the man responsible for surreal performance pieces like the Marlon Brando banana dance on the original "Late Night with David Letterman" reduced to a foil for fart and yellow snow jokes. Somebody give this man an HBO series, quick – before the inevitable Second Snow Day grinds into production.