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Review: Snowtime!

Image from Shout! Factory's SNOWTIME!

With all of the films from around the world that I’ve watched and reviewed over the past few years, the various styles that come from each country is one of the things that I’ve come to appreciate. It’s one of the primary reasons why I’m always open to watching just about anything from outside of America, since they usually promise something different from what I’m used to. That’s why I found Snowtime! to be interesting as I think it stands as the first animated film out of Canada that I’ve ever seen.

Based on La Guerre des Tuques (The Dog Who Stopped the War), a live-action film from 1984, Snowtime! tells a story about a group of kids trying to find ways to amuse themselves during a frigid winter vacation from school. In order to do this, they come together and decide to have a colossal snowball fight. With a pair of 11 year-old kids leading two respective sides, the game starts out as being purely for entertainment purposes, but conflict arises when each side becomes more and more determined to win. Now, the kids will have to find out what friendship means as they learn other valuable lessons pertaining life, unity and war itself.

Throughout Snowtime!, we’re essentially watching a gang of cute, well developed characters finding ways to bond while having a series of snowball fights. It really is a simple premise that works well because they manage to come up with a lot of things for the kids to do while flowing down a lineal path. To make a movie like this work is difficult since there appears to be so little to it, but the people behind it do quite well at making it funny, engaging and thoughtful.

In a way, the characters are the most complete part of the movie. As a unit, they’re a well-rounded group that allows the film to move forward due to the fact that they play off of one another and aid in furthering the story that’s being told. Not only that, but they assist in highlighting the lessons that audiences are supposed to be paying attention to.

When looking at it in its entirety, Snowtime! ends up being a unique picture that’s targeted toward kids. While the story here is easy to follow for anyone, the structure doesn’t cater to the short attention spans that many believe that modern children have. This is one of the reasons why it’s rare, because it’s handled as a real movie where it’s planned out and doesn’t jump from one thing to another just to change things up. I guess since it’s based on a live-action film could explain some of that, but it’s rare to see that in animated picture.

Another aspect of the film that’s interesting to me are the serious themes that are seen throughout the film. I didn’t fully anticipate this and at certain points, it’s a little bit more serious than I would have thought it would be. This works since it gives the movie some heart and maturity to go along with the potential fun that’s to be had with anyone who’s watching this. With it being handled this way, this feature turns out to be one about humanity and all of its warts while remaining very child friendly.

Seeing as Snowtime! is a movie that I hadn’t even heard of beforehand, I was pleasantly surprised by what it had to offer up. Although I certainly find myself enjoying animated films done in the usual style, I can truly appreciate the way this one is done as well. While this is one of my first journeys into animated Canadian films, I doubt it will be my last as it looks as if there may be some quality stuff over there as based on this little movie that deserves some attention.

Rating: PG

Director: Jean-François Pouliot

Cast:
Ross Lynch
Sandra Oh
Angela Gallupo
Lucinda Davis
Sonja Ball
Don Sheperd
Jenna Wheeler
Heidi Lynne Weeks
Elisabeth MacRae
Holly Gauthier

Film Length: 80 minutes

U.S. Release Dates:
February 19, 2016 (Select Theaters Nationwide)
March 1, 2016 (iTunes and VOD)

Distributor: Shout! Factory (U.S.)

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