One of the weaker products to roll off the live-action assembly line at Walt Disney Productions, this plodding and unfunny “comedy” stars Disney regular Dean Jones as Johnny Baxter, a beleaguered office drone who inherits ownership of a hotel in Colorado. Uprooting his family and relocating to Colorado, Johnny discovers that the business is actually defunct, so he contrives a scheme to transform the hotel into a ski resort. Meanwhile, evil local banker Martin Ridgeway (Keenan Wynn) tries to exploit Johnny’s financial vulnerability in order to buy the business, because he wants to harvest and sell lumber from the abundant woods on the hotel’s sprawling property. Since the preceding story is obviously better suited to a drama or even a thriller, it’s no surprise that the makers of Snowball Express must strain to generate jokes. The picture’s two longest sequences are extended ski runs during which Jones and others flail their way down steep hills, but instead of actually integrating impressive stunt footage, the filmmakers rely on flimsy process shots. This methodology is especially frustrating seeing as how much of Snowball Express was shot on location in Colorado; whereas inconsequential scenes feature big skies and wintry atmosphere, key moments feel phony. Adding to the enervated nature of Snowball Express are tiresome running gags about mischievous animals. Even worse is the clichéd material about an ornery old prospector (Harry Morgan) who loiters around the hotel and then—surprise!—becomes a loveable porter once Johnny opens the ski resort. Every single beat in Snowball Express follows the Disney family-values playbook, from the judgmental subplot about a homewrecker (Joanna Phillips) to the trope of the hero’s plucky son (Johnny Whitaker) surprising his father by demonstrating unexpected resourcefulness. By the time Snowball Express climaxes with an interminable snowmobile race (occasioning another volley of anemic FX and idiotic pratfalls), the picture has achieved complete tedium.
Snowball Express: LAME