||One rule of thumb for romantic comedies is that if a filmmaker chooses to break up his picture with "cute" title cards introducing each sequence, the result is probably a bomb. "Let It Snow" (originally titled "Snow Days" during its earlier festival screenings and presumably renamed to avoid confusion with last year's Chevy Chase stinker "Snow Day") is riddled with such cards, and the generalization proves true again. The picture is directed by Adam Marcus, whose feature debut was the lamentable final installment of the "Friday the 13th" series back in 1993. It was called "Jason Goes to Hell," but now Marcus goes one better by sending the whole audience there.
Actually "Snow" is a family affair, scripted by and starring Adam's brother Kipp as James Ellis, a young fellow who falls for his next-door neighbor Sarah (Alice Dylan) during his senior year in high school but who can't voice his feelings for her. Before long he's pining after her from afar, having chosen to go to cooking school while she's off to college, and though they share one date, their mutual failure to communicate their affection leaves them farther apart than ever after it (especially when she transfers to England to complete her studies--the British Isles being the natural place one would go for instruction in meteorology, of course). Poor James goes into a deep funk, drops out of the culinary institute, and winds up as a waiter in a catering business. Sarah eventually returns to the States, but she brings back with her the obligatory sneering British boyfriend, and there's the usual load of overplayed confrontation footage (wouldn't you just know the firm James works for winds up catering Sarah's engagement party?) before the leads eventually find their way back into one another's arms.
The picture is obviously yet another in the long series of romances in which two people obviously meant to be together spend ninety minutes thinking up idiotic reasons why they should be standoffish until their reserve collapses. Whether such a formulaic plot can be made tolerable depends entirely on the invention of the filmmakers and the charm of the cast; and in this instance "Snow" falls on both counts. Apart from the irritating title cards, the script is pretty much a compendium of riffs that would have been old-hat in film school: there are the "sweet" conversations early on between the high schoolers, a montage showing the various suitors of James' colorfully oddball mom (Bernadette Peters), periodic debates with the guy's brilliant but oversexed African-American best friend (played by Henry Simmons of "NYPD Blue"), another montage portraying the hero's series of "loser" dates, occasional cuts to an open-mike comedy club specializing in rants from unhappy singles, and so on. The gags are arch, the characters' eccentricities forced, and the dialogue notably precious. In fact, by the time the picture's over, it's come to seem nothing less than a bunch of stitched-together short films made by earnest but very modestly talented film students. If the lead characters were attractive, the thing could probably still be salvaged, but Marcus' James is basically a dunce (a quality exaggerated by the actor's ferocious mugging, emphasized all too much by his prominent chin--he looks virtually like a young Bruce Campbell--and by his brother's penchant for oppressive closeups) and Dylan's Sarah is too strident for comfort; and the situations they're put in are just too silly and commonplace to warrant much attention. One's left finding stray moments of pleasure where one can, among the supporting cast. Peters is surprisingly bland and Simmons and Miriam Shor (as Sarah's college chum) too forceful for the limp material, but Larry Pine has a few good lines as the heroine's uptight dad, and David Deblinger extracts some laughs as James' prissy boss. Judith Malina also has a funny bit early in the picture when, as James' dotty grandmother, she explains to the then four-year old boy (played by Kristopher Scott Feidel) that their family is cursed in love: "The men leave, and the women go crazy," she explains. The line may, however, come back to haunt you toward the close of "Let It Snow," since it could apply equally well to the reactions of its viewers. On the other hand, the title could be chanted by filmgoers prompted to give this frail, stumbling little effort a try. After all, a blizzard just might prevent you from making it to the theatre.