Jack Frost (1979) – a Rankin-Bass Production – Starring Buddy Hackett, Robert Morse, Paul Frees, Larry Storch, Debra Klinger, and Don Messick.
I keep going back and forth trying to decide if JACK FROST is more properly described as the year Rankin-Bass smoked a big bowl of crack or the year they willingly decided to make the most ill-conceived Holiday special they possibly could.
About the only thing I do understand is that the special is narrated by Buddy Hackett, who has the perfect voice for a kid’s stop-motion or animated special. What character does Hackett play? Frosty the Snowman, maybe? Santa Claus? Oh, you’re not even close.
He plays Pardon-Me-Pete. The Groundhog. You know, from Groundhog’s Day. He’s that groundhog. Yes. Yes. For the first 5 minutes of this special, I was certain I’d been the victim of a bad DVD pressing. But no. No. No. Pardon-Me-Pete the Groundhog is our narrator for this little stop-motion non-classic. P-M-P is the guy who’s going to tell us about it, right after he sees his “shadow” and runs back inside his abode to sleep for 6 more weeks.
Why did I put shadow in quotes? Because he doesn’t see his shadow, he sees Jack Frost pretending to be his shadow.
Right. Because, you see, Jack is invisible … except when he wants to be a shadow.
But him and P-M-P are pals because- no. No. No. They’re not actually pals. Or maybe they are. Pete tells us him and Jack have this deal going on where Pete pretends to be scared of his shadow so Jack can have 6 more weeks of bringing winter to the world, but we never actually get a scene where Pete and Jack have a chat or toss back a cold one or even acknowledge each other. At the end of the special, Pete intimates that Jack isn’t actually in on this deal because good ol’ Pete pretends he’s actually afraid of his pretend shadow while Jack, apparently, thinks Pete is actually afraid of the pretend shadow.
Do they know each other or not? If no, how the hell does Pete know this story? You know what I think – I think Pete is pulling our legs and there is no Jack Frost because he sure as frostbite doesn’t look or act like the Jack Frost in other Rankin-Bass specials. I don’t know. And honestly, by the end of this special, I didn’t care.
But back at the beginning … Pete tells us Jack’s story, and it’s a doozy. It’s full of the most shallow stars you could hope to come across. It’s like watching an episode of a teen soap with the one sensible teenager removed.
Here’s how this works. Jack Frost is busy wintering up the town of January Junction when he sees Elissa, a purty young thing who professes her love for Jack Frost. Jack, because he’s inexperienced with nuanced language, thinks Elissa really means she loves him and so he goes back up to his cloud where the winter-making people hang out and asks Father Winter to make him human so he can make himself known to Elissa in ways other than making her nose cold.
Father Winter eventually agrees, but because he thinks he’s in a stupid romantic comedy, he agrees to conditionally make Jack human. Here are the conditions: by the first day of summer or Groundhog’s Day or the Fifth of Plot Contrivance Month, Jack has to have come into possession of a house, a horse, a bag of gold, and a wife.
Deal! says Jack.
He becomes human and decides he’s a tailor because he was given a pair of scissors from Snip, who’s the guy in charge of hand-cutting all of the world’s snowflakes. (Just keep reading; don’t stop to think.) So Jack Frost becomes Jack Snip and moves into Elissa’s parent’s house, where he opens up shop as a tailor. Before he gets to open shop, in fact, before he even finishes eating the first meal he’s been served, the real Snip shows up as a human to help out.
Of course, no one can call him Snip because Jack has taken that name, so he calls himself Flibbidy Floo McLongfrumplekin. Which just makes you wonder why the writers bothered to give Jack the Jack Snip name if the real Snip was going to come hang out and help with the cutting and sewing of fabric.
Jack is in the house and in love with Elissa but they don’t ever actually talk about it. Jack might be in a romantic comedy plot but he’s not acting like a rom-com character. He’s just clueless. He sits there and snips away and decides he’s going to rid the town of Kubla Kraus, the evil Cossack who rules the town by taking away everyone’s money. Kraus lives in a castle all by himself – at least, all by himself minus the robot horse and knights (pronounced ka-nites) and ventriloquist dummy named … wait for it … Dummy.
So, okay, Jack’s going to play hero … except he can’t. Kraus doesn’t even need to kick the ka-rap out of him because Jack can’t get up Miserable Mountain. He keeps getting a few feet up and then sliding down. Yes. Yes. Yes.
There’s so little interaction between Elissa and Jack you’re just about starting to wonder if they forgot about that plot when Sir Raveneau shows up. Elissa is about as shallow a young woman as you can imagine. She’s a bit like Annie on Community – constantly falling in love with the idea of love. Elissa not only professes her love for Jack Frost, after all, but wants to be taken away from this little craphole of a town by a knight in shining armor.
Which is what Raveneau is. Raveneau arrives at the tailor shop to get his cloak mended and Elissa is all, “Jack Snip will do it” and Jack Snip … does it! He doesn’t hate Raveneau or refuse to do it or even … god, this poor stupid sprite doesn’t even see Raveneau as a challenge to Elissa’s affections. He’s just all wide-eyed and earnest and tells them, “I can’t fix metal” and Elissa is like, “Fix whatever the f*ck he wants you to fix you m*therf*cking simp! He’s my ticket out!”
Later, Kraus kidnaps Elissa and they all storm the castle to get her back and Kraus does kick the crap out of them and Raveneau gets injured and Snip gets captured. The only way out is for Snip to become Frost again and give up his humanity. He does.
Then he makes it snow and snow and snow until Father Time is like, “Time for Spring,” which is when Jack goes and tricks Pete with the shadow play. Jack comes back, turns human, takes Kraus’ castle, horse, and gold, leaving only the wife left for him. He goes to Elissa’s house to ask for her hand in marriage …
Only to be told by her dad that she’s engaged to Raveneau. Jack is all, “I thought she loved me” and the dad is like, “Never heard her say that. I’ve heard her say she loves Jack Frost, though” and you’re waiting for him to reveal himself and her to fall for him and …
It never happens. Nope. Jack just gives up, becomes a sprite again and that’s that. Really.
Elissa, Raveneau, and Jack are all insanely shallow and immature. They’re all in love but it’s all surface-oriented love, though one hopes by the time of the wedding Elissa and Ravvy bond over his injuries a bit. But Jack just goes back to doing his thing.
So what was the point? You have to stay who you are? Shallow girls will break your heart? Shallow girls who love shallow boys will find true love and perfect happiness?
Silly, silly special.