When I took on the assignment of writing up Snowmaggedon, which is apparently the closest thing the SyFy Original Movie factory has to a Christmas flick, I did so because I thought I was going to be tag-teaming the affair with my six-year-old daughter.
"Ally, you might find this interesting," I lied. "There's a little boy in it, and someone leaves a mysterious present on his doorstep."
"What kind of present?"
"A magic snowglobe."
"Eh," she said, with a shrug. "It sounds kind of interesting, I guess. But not really."
"I get that, believe me. But, look, here's the thing: I'm going to be writing about it, and I thought that if you watched it with me, maybe you might say something funny, and if you do, maybe I'll put it in my review."
Her eyes grew dreamy, and she said, "I'll do anything to be in your review!"
So I dropped Commander van der Werff an email to tell him that I was on task, then I put the screener in the Blu-ray player, plopped down on the couch with Ally, and hit "play."
Within 15 minutes, Ally was back in her room, constructing a fort. As I write this line, she is in bed, despite the fact that she was offered the opportunity to stay up more than an hour past her bedtime if she finished watching the movie with me. The moral to this story: even people who claim to be willing to do anything will still draw the line at watching a SyFy Original Movie.
"This Christmas, unwrap the gift…that keeps on destroying," intoned the announcer just before the film premiered. This, you may be unsurprised to learn, is far cleverer than any line actually found within the film itself, which is so heavy-handed and predictable from the get-go that it actually takes place in the town of – wait for it – Normal, Alaska. (Say, what do you want to bet that the only thing normal about Normal is its name?)
David Cubitt (Medium) plays John Miller, who’s apparently the town’s sheriff, even though he never really does anything particularly sheriff-y, his helicopter-pilot wife, Beth, is played by Laura Harris (Dead Like Me, Defying Gravity), and they’ve got two kids: Rudy (Dylan Matzke), whose two establishing characteristics are that he’s young enough to still believe in Santa and is addicted to a board game called Dragon of the Crown, and teenager Stephanie (Magda Apanowicz), who loves gabbing on the phone to her gal pals and has a thing for snowboarders…which, by a remarkable coincidence, is the precise occupation of the gentleman her mother has been hired to fly in her ‘copter.
Oh, right: you probably want to know about the snow globe I mentioned earlier.
Yeah, some mysterious stranger delivers it to the front door of the Miller’s house, wrapped like a Christmas gift, and when John tells Rudy to go ahead and open the box, he’s in awe of this globe, which contains a precise miniature replica of Normal. Unfortunately, that precision extends to the point where, when Rudy shakes the globe, Normal suffers an earthquake…and for one brief moment, you may experience a brief tingling sensation as you start to think, “Hey, you know, this is actually kind of a cool concept…”
Wrong. That is just the film fucking with you. You fight through that shit and remember: no SyFy Original Movie has ever successfully executed a cool concept well, and Snowmageddon is no goddamned exception.
Oh, it wants you believe it’s going to be different. Unlike most SyFy flicks, it starts off feeling like a family adventure film, providing viewers with two cool parents, a snowboarding subplot for the teens, and, for the younger generation, Rudy is playing a game which is clearly inspired in no small part by Jumanji. Unfortunately, despite the events within the snow globe leading to avalanches, hail storms, giant cracks in the earth, and various other forms of devastation, Snowmageddon still manages to be a slow-moving bore of a movie. Worse, the ending will make you want to throw something at your television – may I recommend a snow globe? – by offering absolutely no clarification about where the hell the snow globe came from, who delivered it, and why he dropped it on the Miller’s doorstep.
SyFy Original Movies are sometimes hard to grade, particularly if you’re a fan of films of the so-bad-they’re-good genre, but it’s surprisingly easy to slap a low letter grade onto Snowmageddon.
- Did Laura Harris bribe someone at SyFy to keep herself from being referenced in any press release for the film? If so, how much extra did she have to pay in order to have someone else’s name credited on the only promotional photo that featured her? I recognized her face immediately, but I was blanking on her name (a query of my Facebook friends eventually produced the answer) and the advance screener of the film offered no credits, so I went to IMDb and looked up the name attributed to her in the photo: Carolyn Adair. I could tell by the credits that it wasn’t her, but apparently most other critics didn’t, as most of the advance reviews of the film refer to “helicopter-pilot mom Carolyn Adair.” Whoops…
- Snowboard Boy is apparently very famous and has come to Normal to film some seriously bad-ass footage for his fans. His big line to the folks back home: "What's up, boys and girls? We're fresh out of reindeer, but Santa's always got his sleigh…" My wife burst out laughing and called him “Justin Bieber for the snowboard set.” Score one for the spouse
- Cubitt gets the obligatory bad-ass one-liner before the inevitable happy ending, sneering, “Merry Christmas, you son of a bitch.” Probably would’ve been more bad-ass if he hadn’t had to deliver it to a snow globe.
- I went to Google to see if there’s an actual term for the fear of snow globes. There is not. But in the process of looking for one, I found that, according to Uncyclopedia, Tommy Lee Jones “had an unusually difficult childhood because of his fear of snow globes, and despite years of rehabilitation he is still terrified of snow globes today.” My God, I just hope no one shows him this film…