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Film / The Snowball Express

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The Snowball Express is a 1972 Disney film starring Dean Jones as New York accountant John Baxter, who is one day visited by a lawyer who informs him that his late uncle Jacob Barnsworth had left him an inheritance of the Grand Imperial Hotel in Silver Hill, Colorado. Seizing the opportunity and eager to get away from his dead-end accounting job, John quits on the spot, packs up his family and moves to Colorado only to find that the Grand Imperial is in a bit of a dump. Aside from finding a way to return the hotel to its former glory by turning it into a ski lodge, John must find a way to keep everything afloat financially while trying to hold onto his marriage as one setback after another creates a visible strain between him and his wife.


The Snowball Express contains examples of:

  • The Alcoholic: Jesse is a G-rated version. Johnny is wise enough to not hire him as the bartender.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Mr. Ridgeway is portrayed as a small-town version.
  • Deadpan Snarker: John and Jesse both have their moments.
    Richard: "Where's Silver Hill, Colorado?"
    John: "It's in Wyoming."
  • D.I.Y. Disaster: Wally's attempt at repairing the water heater ends up costing the hotel the money it needed for a rope tow engine.
    • Averted in his attempt to blast a stump as that leads in to the hotel receiving its first influx of customers.
  • The Dragon: Double L Dingman is this to Ridgeway.
  • Everybody Laughs Ending
  • Flat Character: John and Suzie's daughter, Chris, doesn't say or do much and is pretty much just there to be a Love Interest for Wally.
  • Friend to All Living Things: Jesse describes John's great uncle Jake (who left him the hotel) as this, while everyone else in town saw him as a Cloud Cuckoolander.
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  • Gadgeteer Genius: Wally likes to think he's this but the only thing he did right was build his snowmobile from spare parts. All of his onscreen attempts fail miserably.
    Richard: "Wally knows all about blasting."
  • Gosh Dang It to Heck!: "Ridgeway, you horse's caboose!"
  • Happily Married: John and Susan, though it does get strained a bit throughout the film as John begins to do increasingly-dangerous things to not lose the hotel.
  • Horrible Judge of Character: Inverted. When the Baxter's dog, Stoutheart, barks and nips at Mr. Ridgeway Richard defends him by saying that dogs are a good judge of character. He's right.
  • Instant Expert: Subverted when Wally tries to teach a ski class while in the middle of reading a book on how to ski.
  • Karma Houdini: Averted. Johnny messes up the computer at his original job as a departing act of defiance but later reveals to his wife that he had to pay for the repairs.
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  • Loophole Abuse: What actually saves the hotel in the end. Jacob Barnsworth leased his land to the town of Silver Hill and promised to give them ownership if they built a hospital, a veterinary clinic and a library. The town never built the library, so Johnny finds out he basically inherited the entire town as a result of the failure to abide by the contract.
  • Lovable Coward: The dog.
    Suzie: "Take Stoutheart with you."
    Johnny: "The last thing I need is a 200-pound chicken!"
  • Made of Iron: Averted. Wally ends up breaking his arm after falling off the cliff and that prevents him from entering the snowmobile race.
    • Played straight with John, who endures several spills and falls, including slamming into a tree and knocking it over while walking away with just a bump on the head.
  • Not Now, Kiddo: Initially played straight as John ignores his son, Richard's, ideas. Averted the second time Richard has something to say and actually leads into the resolution of the film.
  • Oh, Crap!: A lot of these moments from John during his skiing misadventures.
  • Preemptive "Shut Up": Johnny gives a couple to Wally.
  • Running Gag: The fish in the hotel's water. Johnny losing control when skiing.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: John quitting his accounting job. John's wife, Suzie, taking the kids and leaving when she gets fed up with John's last Zany Scheme to save the hotel. Jesse also tries this during the snowmobile race, until Johnny drags him back.
  • That Came Out Wrong: Wally telling Suzie that he's giving John a "crash course" in snowmobiling.
  • This Is Gonna Suck: Richard is the first to orally express this once the family sees how rundown the Grand Imperial is when they arrive.
  • Wham Line: For Mr. Ridgeway. "You just may own the whole town of Silver Hill, Mr. Baxter, including his bank!"
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: How Jesse gets enough pity not to be thrown out of the hotel into a raging blizzard.

Example of: