Kernel Rating (out of 5):
MPAA Rating: PG Length: 83 minutes
Age Appropriate For: 7+. This animated film about a snowball fight that alters the friendships between a group of small-town kids includes some language, like referring to the fight as a “war,” with kids boasting about hurting each other, and a variety of insults, including “doofus” and “losers.” The children aren’t necessarily bad kids, but they do get caught up in the snowball fight and act cruelly toward each other, and there is some bullying. Also the mention of a parent who passed away in combat, a beloved pet dies, a variety of farting humor, and some flirting and a kiss between two tween characters.
The animated film ‘Snowtime!’ doesn’t have too complicated of a story—kids living in a small town plan a massive snowfight during their school break—but that simplicity will make it work for younger kids.
By Roxana Hadadi
Even the best animated films, if their stories are too complex, end up with audiences that are more heavily adult than child; think of last year’s fantastic “Inside Out,” which probably flew over the heads of most kids. But that won’t be a problem with “Snowtime!”, an animated film that pits a group of kids against each other in a massive snowfight. The story is simple, the characters are uncomplicated, and the message is one of friendship. For young kids who don’t have the patience for more elaborate fare, “Snowtime!” will be a fun, unfussy diversion.
The film takes place in a small, snow-covered town with seemingly no adults on the night before a two-week break from school. For the kids who live there, “this is the greatest village in the whole wide world,” where “it’s always crisp and cold” and where all of the children in town are friendly with each other.
Well, for the most part. Loner Luke (voiced by Angela Galuppo, of “X-Men: Days of Future Past”) mostly sticks to himself, but after he brings his bugle to school and impresses everyone with his playing, he’s suddenly more popular. The military-themed instrument soon has everyone calling him “General,” and almost immediately, the nickname goes to his head and he tries to assume leadership with the group of kids planning a town-wide snowball fight.
Pleased with his newfound status, Luke gives barely a second thought to organizing most of the kids to ambush two of the holdouts who don’t want the snowball fight: the nerdy genius Frankie (voiced by Sandra Oh, of “Ramona and Beezus”) and his friend Piers (voiced by Ross Lynch, of “Muppets Most Wanted”), whose beloved dog Cleo is adored by all the kids.
What Luke doesn’t realize, though, is that Frankie and Piers aren’t going to go down that easily—especially not when the brainy Frankie has developed his own plans for a massive fort—and that they have reinforcements in the new girls in town, beautiful and take-charge Sophie (voiced by Lucinda Davis, of “Race”) and her younger sister, the bratty Lucy (voiced by Galuppo). With so few girls in town, the presence of Sophie and Lucy is a big deal—but with Sophie and Luke being on different sides of the rapidly escalating snowfight, their chances for friendship, and possibly even romance, aren’t great.
How the snowfight consumes the kids in town takes up the majority of “Snowtime!”, which relishes most in battle scenes that show the elaborate plans the kids make against each other. Those sequences can last chunks of time, as the film moves from inside Frankie’s elaborate fort (complete with security system and lounge space) to the outside assaults that Luke’s group make on it. Although the subject matter is repetitive, the film uses music wisely to make each snowfight seem different, and for younger kids, these moments will certainly turn into impromptu dance parties.
But aside from the film’s good energy, it skimps too much on characterization; there is a nice backstory given for Luke’s character and a heartbreaking flashback to a traumatic time in his life, but not everyone else is treated so generously. Sophie in particular is simplified, so although she’s a nicely confident character who young girls will look up to, she doesn’t really have a personality. The same goes for Frankie and Piers, who are also supposed to be major protagonists. All the kids are sparsely imagined, and the lack of adult characters means there is no one else for the children to interact with. “Snowtime!” becomes too insular quickly.
Nevertheless, this will be a nice choice for younger kids who don’t really need all that extra stuff to still be amused by “Snowtime!” And if it inspires kids to go and play outside in our next inevitable snowstorm, that's a great thing.
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