Typically when I spend most of the runtime wondering “Who was this movie made for?” I mean that as a negative. Not this time. In this case, there is a second half to that sentence: “Who was this movie made for… besides me?” I’d be hard-pressed to identify the target market for this film other than the person currently tapping this keyboard.
Let’s talk through it: In 2000, Nickelodeon Films produced a modestly successful but critically panned live-action film called Snow Day. I caught it on cable shortly thereafter, and it became one of my favorite comfort-watches of my teenage years… then of my twenties… and now of my thirties. There are not all that many people on the planet who are bigger fans of Snow Day than me. It’s not a great movie in an objective sense, but it’s a great version of itself, if that makes sense. It captures the ineffable childhood magic of an unexpected snow day, of first love on the line and secret truths that crystallize when the natural order breaks down. It’s also got a bunch of farts. Nobody’s perfect.
And now 22 full years later Paramount+ has released a remake. Not just any remake: A musical remake. It’s a full-on teeny-bopper Disney Channel knock-off. I’m not sure if it’s intended to be a nostalgia play. Are there enough weirdos like me who latched onto Snow Day and never let go for that to be a profitable endeavor? I’d guess not — according to Letterboxd, it’s not even one of the 25 most popular family movies from the year 2000, bested by such titans as Mom’s Got a Date with a Vampire and The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas. It has an abysmal 2.4 out of 5 average on Letterboxd. And even if it were designed to pull in millennials, the production has no bearing on that: This is a run-of-the-mill younger-teen musical with nothing designed to pull in adults who wouldn’t otherwise seek out this material.
So it must be an attempt at pulling in a fresh audience, right? Well, that one’s a head-scratcher too. The movie had almost no marketing. It’s weirdly reverential of the original, pulling in dozens of references both big and small from the 2000 film — the kind that only Snow Day-heads like myself would even bother to notice. If this movie was made to pull in new eyes, why bother tying itself to the original?
So I ask again: Who was this movie made for? And the answer is apparently… me, specifically: Someone who loves the original enough to appreciate the connective tissue; someone who has a big appetite for cheesy tweener musicals; someone happy to forgive its flaws so long as the cast chemistry is good and the best friends fall in love.
And I think Paramount+ seems to have realized that there is not much of an audience for the film. The marketing appears to be minuscule, borderline nonexistent (had I not set a calendar reminder, I wouldn’t have even know it had released), thinning out the already narrow audience subscribed to Paramount+. In the month-or-so since Snow Day’s release, a whopping 276 people have logged the film on Letterboxd. It is currently ranked the 2,397th most popular movie of 2022 on the platform. Even if you factor in a shift based on a demographic mismatch between Letterboxd users and family movie audiences, that’s not great, Bob. My theory is that Discovery’s slash-and-burn approach to original programming meant this slipped through the cracks without much momentum, and it will forever remain a movie the essentially nobody on the planet has seen. Except me.
That’s a long introduction, but I have a lot of built up feelings. I watched Snow Day the day it came out, and now a second time a month later. And the verdict: It clears the exceptionally low bar I have placed for it, but no more. But it does indeed clear it, and for that I love it. I will be watching it a third time.
The film, as you might be familiar with, or might not be if you are a normal person who hasn’t committed Snow Day from 2000 to memory, follows siblings Hal (Ky Baldwin) and Natalie (Michaela Russell) across a surprise snow day. Natalie makes it her mission to get a second day off by ruining the efforts of Snow Plow Man (Jerry Trainor from iCarly/Drake and Josh), a delectably villainous character who gets joy in crushing kids’ dreams.
Hal, meanwhile, spends the day pursuing longtime crush Claire Bonner (Shelby Simmons) who recently broke up with her d-bag boyfriend Chuck Wheeler (Myles Erlick). Hal is backed up by his platonic best friend Lane (Fabi Aguirre). But maybe there’s more to the connection between Lane and Hal than meets the eye? It’s all cartoonish, sitcom-type material, but heightened and cinematic: In fact the strength of the original film is making it feel so big and adventurous and romantic in spite of the small narrative scope.
The most noticeable trait of the new Snow Day is that it is barely a movie at all. Stories tend to get longer when you start adding in musical numbers, but not this one. Even with an extended intro segment, Snow Day is a fleeting film: the credits start rolling around minute 71. Plot threads from the original have been mercilessly trimmed, some scrapped altogether: The thread about an underdog weatherman, played by Chevy Chase in the original, is completely absent minus a few seconds of an inarticulate weatherperson on TV. Rob Huebel and Laura Bell Bundy make tiny appearances as Natalie and Hal’s parents in a thread work addiction that gets maybe 3 minutes of screentime (neither sing, despite Bundy’s Broadway background).
The cast is not a home run, but solid: I think Russell, who plays younger sibling Natalie, could star in a Disney Channel sitcom — she’s got poise and good deliveries. She’s the strong point, but not the only one. Trainor is lots of fun as a campy villain, too.
One thing this movie gets right is the chemistry between the cast — it’s easy to believe that these could people could be friends or family or boyfriend-girlfriend, etc, even if their performances themselves aren’t always memorable. Aguirre as Lane, for example, who comes from a stage background, interprets almost every moment with mugging and snark, but in a sort of adorable way that feels authentically like a chipper 15 year old.
The budget on the project is clearly small — the production values are by and large pretty low. This is undeniably streaming fodder. The low production values are disappointing, but not crippling: we get snow that seems real, a must, plus a snow plow (albeit not one nearly as memorable as the original).
The music is mostly replacement-level TV movie musical numbers, with a couple highlights. None of the six numbers are actively unpleasant, which is a low but essential bar to clear. But, again, only barely cleared: I don’t think I could hum a line from either of the ballads, “I Need a Sign” or “What If,” if you put a gun to my head.
By far the best track is “Cake”: It’s a legitimately catchy number. It also happens to have the best choreography, and it accompanies the best-looking scene in the movie: an argument in a diner lit and colored in high saturation that is the only time the movie visually pops. Incidentally, “Cake” is the least essential song in the film from a narrative or character perspective, illuminating the tertiary relationship between Claire and her dopey jackass boyfriend Chuck.
The other excellent number is “These Kids,” which I imagine is most people’s favorites, because it’s just a bunch of rowdy fun: The Snow Plan man talking about how “I hate, hate, hate, hate, hate these kids” and how he relishes destroying their snow day dreams. It’s a boisterous, Broadway-esque tune.
Lastly, there’s a nice, 30-second dance routine that I really liked in which Hal and Natalie do a “snow dance” which the movie inexplicably scores with some cloying strings that overpower the accompanying schoolyard rhyme.
By the time the movie reaches its disco-influenced closer, “The Best Is Yet to Come,” all threads have fairly rapidly come to a close with little chance to let the richest beats simmer. There’s no “The Wayne!” / “the bird!” runner, no kickass snowmobile chase, etc. All that stuff requires budget and runtime, and this Snow Day blitzes through its plot, making me appreciate even more the structure of the original.
So let’s cut to the chase. Is this a good movie? Man, you’re asking the wrong person. I’m not inclined to say a bad word about it. They took freaking Snow Day and they made it into a goofy musical! I’m over the dang moon! Rejoice with me that it exists! Inevitably, it’s bound to its streaming budget and modest ambitions, but it did what I wanted it to do. I suspect most people reading this won’t really like it; some might hate it. But most people reading this aren’t me, the singular person this movie was apparently designed to please.
- Review Project: 2022: Year in Film