“The unending year of the snowmen”

DISCLAIMER: I saw an early version of this film. Final editing hadn’t been done.
Snowmen is a movie of good intentions. It is aimed squarely at the wholesome family fun crowd and makes no secret of it having warm fuzzies to impart and lessons to teach. And it barely escapes the orbit of feeling like an afterschool special.
“I don’t have to be remembered forever as the pathetic bald kid.” –Billy

Written and directed by Robert Kirbyson, 10-year-old Billy Kirkfield (Bobby Coleman) is convinced that he’s dying from cancer. His baldness, a lingering effect of his treatment and constant reminder of his mortality has left his abandoned by all of his classmates except for his two best friends, Lucas Lamb (Christian Martyn), a plucky “pacifist” and recent Jamaican immigrant, Howard Garvey (Bobb’e J. Thompson). Billy is determined to by remembered, staging bigger and bigger stunt in order to make the history books. Of course there’s a journey of self-discovery as they conquer neighborhood bullies, unite a community, learn from/teach their parents lessons, and realize that fame isn’t as important as family and friends.

“It’s like so super important, you’re like … wow.” –Lucas

The adults in their lives—Billy’s car salesman Dad (Ray Liotta), the Mayor, the school Principal—often prove to be largely insincere; more concerned with image, spin, appearances and publicity. Having formed a kind of Losers Club, where the social rejects have banded together. Billy wears the stigma and shame of being sick. It has infected his whole being, not just being tired of his condition, but allowing it to determine how he sees himself, how (he believes) others see him. It’s like letting a sin, a condition, a lie we’ve come to believe about ourselves, define us. And he is more than just his sickness.

“I gotta do something so that people don’t forget me.” –Billy

Part of our soul yearns for immortality. Sometimes, it’s an issue of our self-worth, wanting to show that our lives meant something and that we made a difference or mattered while we were here. So Billy begins to do things in order to be remembered, from hitting with snowballs, to getting on the news, to performing stunts. Thing is, as a relational being, not only do we find our meaning in our friendships and in our family, but our relationships have an eternal aspect to them. We can get caught up in wanting to do something big, something profound, only to realize that conquering the Kill Hills of our lives or even setting the world records wasn’t the point. As we go about our daily lives, we experience God moments, opportunities to create memories and touch other people’s lives. Where the doing the things that “matter” may be as simple as helping people through tough times and thus impacting the lives of lose around him. As we reflect on our life stories, when people talk about someone living, good life, it’s not what they think, but how they did it. Being a good friend leads to ripple effects and becomes truly profound.

“People do not like missing out on opportunities.” –Reggie Kirkfield

A lot of threads are woven into this movie: the need to defeat bullies, the building of snowmen, the will he/won’t he tension of Billy’s dying of cancer, Billy’s relationship with his father. The movie doesn’t balance them well as the various strands don’t quite come together. With so many messages being thrown at us, it diffuses the message of movie. And don’t get me wrong, we are beat nearly to death with the message stick. And because the movie makers are so focused on making sure their message came across, Snowmen ends up feeling treacly and earnest, but far from profound. One can hope that by the time of its final release, the movie will have been tightened up, with its jokes/humor punched up. Because it’s not a perfect movie, I’m letting the horrific Jamaican accent as well as the “comedy relief of the cute little ethnic child” thing pass.