A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Snowmen is a 2011 coming-of-age movie about a boy with terminal cancer who rallies his school and community to try to set the Guinness World Record for the most number of snowmen made in 24 hours. There are scenes showing frequent bullying, as the bully pushes, shoves, and name-calls his way through each of his scenes, but it's worth mentioning that the lead character develops a strong sense of empathy during the movie and begins to understand that the bully is a bully because he has no real friends and doesn't know how else to behave. There are instances of inappropriate humor: Two boys who become friends start a snowball fight culminating in one tackling the other, holding him down, and forcing snot bubbles out of his nose until they almost drip in the other boy's face. Friends are nearly buried to death under snow by a bulldozer; this same bulldozer uncovers the body of a deceased elderly man who stares these boys directly in the face. However, in spite of these moments of bullying, violence, and inappropriate humor, this movie does teach lessons on the importance of empathy, honesty, and overcoming obstacles to achieve one's dreams.
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What's the story?
Billy Kirkfield is a 10-year-old boy with terminal cancer. All he wants out of life is to "not die a loser." With his best friends Howard and Lucas, they try to make the best of school but must always face down the wrath of the school bully Jason. Things start to change when Billy and his friends peruse a copy of the Guinness Book of World Records. Inspired, Billy decides to try and break the record for the most number of snowmen made in a single day. He rallies his friends, his school, and even his community. While trying to do this, Billy must learn to stand up to and even empathize with the bully Jason and try to understand that being a good and honest person is much more important than aspiring to fleeting fame.
Is it any good?
The acting amongst the kids and adults is better than many low-budget movies like this, and the action manages to remain engaging throughout. The biggest problem with this movie is that it feels stretched out and padded -- after getting the audience interested in whether or not the school will set the record for the most snowmen made in a day, the characters take a detour, and the actions and lessons feel forced. Still, the movie does try to address complex issues in a thoughtful way, in spite of the iffy humor and schoolyard violence.
Within the first six minutes of SNOWMEN, two boys engage in a snowball fight, culminating in one boy tackling the other and holding him down while trying to force snot bubbles onto his face, three boys are nearly suffocated when the snow tunnels they have made are covered by a bulldozer, and this same bulldozer uncovers a recently deceased elderly man who stares these boys directly in the face. Fortunately, the movie levels out a bit after these intense scenes, and what emerges, despite the bullying and gross-out humor, is a better-than-average coming-of-age story unafraid to deal honestly with issues such as childhood cancer, bullying, and empathy.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about bullying. How is the bully portrayed in this movie? How do the main characters see the bully over time? How do the characters use empathy to understand why the bully behaves the way he does?
How accurately do you think this movie reflects the reality of a 10-year-old boy with terminal cancer?
How does this movie compare with other coming-of-age movies?
- On DVD or streaming: November 29, 2011
- Cast: Ray Liotta, Bobby Coleman, Christopher Lloyd
- Director: Robert Kirbyson
- Studio: Arc Entertainment
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Friendship, Great Boy Role Models
- Run time: 85 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: Thematic material, some rough bullying and peril, language and brief juvenile humor
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