Call it War and Precipitation. Sandwiched between the broader releases of Kung Fu Panda 3 and Zootopia is this Canadian-produced animated feature, which is now playing in a few theaters nationwide. Based on a story popular among children of our Northern neighbor, Snowtime! is an adaptation of a Quebecois live-action hit from 1984, known Stateside as The Dog Who Stopped the War. At home, it received a bells and whistles 3D release and was a success. Here, it’s natural home will be home video, but if you’ve already taken your kids to see Po and it happens to be playing in your neighborhood, you could do worse.
Availing itself a naturally Frozen setting, the movie deals with that rite of passage, the snowball fight. And not just any snowball fight, but the mother of all snowball fights, one as much like a Viking siege as a childhood game. Which is precisely the point of the film, as matters quickly escalate among two warring factions, one creating and holding a big snow-built fort, and the other attacking it. Like Peanuts, there are no adults, as the kids sort out some highly conflicted, grown-up notions of warfare. The combatants include two sisters, Sophie (Lucinda Davis) and her pain in the neck sibling, Lucy (Angela Gallupo), who are new to a town lousy with boys. Their number includes fort builder Frankie (voiced, Bart Simpson-style, by Grey’s Anatomy and Sideways star Sandra Oh), invasion leader Luke (Gallupo), dumb bunny Chuck (Don Shepherd), and Piers (Ross Lynch), who owns a flatulent Saint Bernard, Cleo. Sophie and Luke form a deeper kind of alliance as the opposing forces vie for reinforcements among the younger kids and dig in for the long haul, or at least as long as school vacation lasts.
In terms of animation, Snowtime! is on the rudimentary side. It looked OK as a DVD screener, which is how I viewed it with my kids, but I imagine it’s laid pretty bare on the big screen, minus the 3D. The music includes contributions by Celine Dion, so gird yourself accordingly. What Jean-FranÁ§ois Pouliot’s film has going for it is the underlying story, which builds to the snowball fight of your dreams–then brings you up short with an unexpected ending. Be prepared to discuss it with your family, that conversation being a thoughtful dividend that will lose nothing in translation.