At The Theater # 16: Snowmen

Late April brings the Tribeca Film Festival to New York City. When the film guide became available, I pored through it, surprised by how many movies I wanted to see. Last year, I couldn’t find one movie that caught my interest. This year, I had a list of 40. I narrowed this way-too-large list to a much more manageable list of three movies I’d really want to see if I could score tickets. With tickets to this year’s festival running $16.50 each, $4 above the average cost of a movie in Manhattan and $6.50 more than I’m used to paying in Brooklyn, I knew I’d be able to justify seeing one movie.

That number dwindled when I tried buying tickets to Beware the Gonzo, a teen comedy that looked enjoyably quirky. On top of the $16.50 ticket price, there was a processing fee of $3.50 per ticket. Stacked on top of that, there was another $4 charge to print my tickets at home. How is that it costs four bucks for me to use my own printer, ink and paper to print my tickets? The prospect of paying $22 per ticket had me convinced that I wouldn’t see any movies at the Tribeca Film Festival this year.

This is why it seems odd that I saw two movies from the festival on Saturday.

Despite not seeing any movies at the festival, I was happy to attend the Tribeca Family Festival on Saturday, May 1. If you’ve never been to the Tribeca Family Festival, you should definitely go to it next year. It’s my favorite part of the Tribeca Film Festival and my favorite NYC street fair. Unlike most street fairs, it’s not the same sausage booth, beer booth and sock vendor repeated for a mile. Instead, the Tribeca Family Fest has good food provided by nearby restaurants, live entertainment, and cool demo booths from companies like ESPN and the NY Knicks. Bloomberg even gives out free popcorn. That’s the company Bloomberg, not the mayor. And, as I’ve mentioned in the past, I love popcorn.

While I was passing a random live entertainment stag, the director of Snowmen, Robert Kirbyson, walked on with Josh Flitter, one of the stars, and announced they were handing out free tickets to a screening later tonight. Snowmen wasn’t on my list of festival movies to see, long or short. But in my book, a free movie = score!

Snowmen centers around a boy named Billy, a cancer patient who wants to leave a lasting legacy that will cause people to remember him after he’s gone. Most of the people in the audience at the Snowmen screening were either elementary school kids or their parents. Before the movie started, Robert Kirbyson said that the movie is uplifting, but also acknowledged that it deals with some heavy subject matters. He wasn’t kidding. Five minutes in, Billy and his two best friends discover a dead body in a mound of snow. That’s all it took for the kid in front of me to demand that his mom take him somewhere, anywhere else.

It’s too bad he left, because he missed a good movie. The director was right. The movie does deal with some heavy topics, which reminded me of Stand By Me, in that they’re both movies that are aimed at kids, but neither talks down to the audience and deals with more meaningful topics than most kids films.

There are some big stars in Snowmen. Ray Liotta is great as Billy’s dad, a used-car salesman who does everything to get on camera and push his car lot. It’s the kind of over-the-top role that is perfect for Liotta. Doug E. Doug and Bobb’e J. Thompson play Billy’s recently transplanted neighbors from Jamaica. If I knew earlier that Doug E. Doug was in this movie, it would have at least made it to the long list of movies to see based on that alone. There aren’t enough movies with Doug E. Doug in them. The guy was awesome in Cool Runnings and helped make Bill Cosby’s late-90’s CBS sitcom Cosby a funny show.

There’s a scene in the movie where Billy and Bobb’e J. attempt to set an airtime record for sledding off a huge ramp (with disastrous results) and I couldn’t help by think that they should have first asked Doug E. Doug for advice. The guy was on the Jamaican Bobsled team, after all.

I just heard the wildest thing, Jamaica’s got a bobsled team.

If you have kids, I recommend taking them to see Snowmen if it makes it to a theater near you. I wouldn’t recommend it for kids under 8. The heavier topics might be too much for them and I doubt they’d have patience for the slower scenes, though they’ll definitely get a kick out of the giant snowball fight.

Despite Ray Liotta, Robert Kirbyson and Josh Flitter being in attendance, there was no Q&A afterwards, which is too bad, because the post-movie Q&A with the director and cast is always a movie festival treat. But that did leave us enough time to get the next movie we would see that night, so who am I to complain?