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Snowmen is light and weighty with plenty of teachable moments.

Snowmen DVD
Approximate length: two hours plus special features

Are gross-out scenes obligatory in children’s movies? I hope not. Early on in Snowmen one child dribbles nasal fluid onto another, which is something that I could do without. Thankfully, I cannot recall any other cringe-inducing moments.

Snowmen’s primary appeal is younger children but this could be enjoyed by an entire family. It has a welcome lightheartedness, though it sometimes is too cute for its own good. One boy’s repeated use of the word “profound” gets old quickly. The film also plays to stereotypes; witness a Jamaican character’s repeated use of the word “man.” These things detract but can be overlooked.  

The story focuses on Billy Kirkfield, a young boy diagnosed with terminal cancer, and two close friends, Howard Garvey, freshly relocated with his family from Jamaica, and Lucas Lamb. The names suit their characters. “Kirk” is an ancient word for “church.” While his auto dealership-owning dad fills TV screens with obnoxious car commercials, Billy’s pulpit is his school and the larger community. Howard Garvey is as noble as his name, a loyal person willing to fight for his friends. Lucas Lamb is as vulnerable and defenseless as his last name.

Together they make a startling discovery as they play in the snow outside the Kirkfield’s house. What at first looks to be a lone boot buried in the snow, turns out to be a frozen man, seemingly forgotten by the world.

It ignites a quest in Billy to accomplish something significant before he dies. He does not want to be forgotten like the “snow man,” who was missing for a week without anyone realizing it. Though subjects like cancer, death and significance are serious, the movie never gets heavy or overly sentimental. It maintains a sense of humor.

After searching with his friends for a way to make his mark, Billy settles on the idea of setting a Guinness World Records title for building the most snowmen in a day.

What follows are some surprising and rewarding turns. The moralizing may be predictable, but it is never heavy-handed. Only briefly does a more overt Christian theme emerge: a brief discussion about whether children automatically go to heaven. The implied answer is no. By the way, I would not classify this as a “Christian” movie; there is no sermonizing or explicit Christian teaching.

I enjoyed seeing well-known actor Christopher Lloyd, who makes a brief but significant contribution.  The cinematography and scenery are also beautiful to behold. One shot shows the three boys on a hill building snowmen as day’s end approaches. Their silhouettes stand out against a dazzling backdrop of colors.

Amazingly, for a children’s movie, Snowmen is both light and weighty. It handles its subjects in a relatable way without being scary or depressing. The goofiness will try the patience of mature viewers, but the payoffs at the end are piled high like snowdrifts, providing teachable moments. This is something that a family can watch for fun and not have reason to be embarrassed.

Michael Dalton