This animated Canadian film is a remake of The Dog Who Stopped the War, the first in the Tales for All anthology of childrens films. Originally titled Snowball for it’s French-Canadian release, the film was retitled to Cleo for its international release, using several new voice actors.
Opening at the start of a two-week winter holiday, the kids are almost immediately bored in their quiet, snow-covered little town. They split into two factions to declare a snowball war which will last them the holidays. The teams are led by 11 year old Luke (voiced by Angela Galuppo), who is still coming to terms with the death of his father, and his romantic interest Sophie (Lucinda Davis), a firey newcomer to town.
Despite the initial fun nature of the snowball war, a misunderstanding escalates the battle until things get out of hand and a tragedy puts things back into perspective. With themes of friendship, loyalty, and the dangers of war, Cleo carryies some rather serious messages for a children’s film, but nonethess delivers them in a highly entertaining way.
It is primarily the colourful young characters that make Cleo so successful. Every child has a unique personality that shines. They are all adorable in their own way, including Sophie’s explosive young sister Lucie (also voiced by Angela Galuppo), twins Henri and George who always speak simultaneously (voiced by Heidi Lynne Weeks), dreamy Fran (Jenna Wheeler), peaceful Piers (Ross Lynch), and brainiac inventor Frankie (voiced by Golden Globe-winner Sandra Oh). Then, of course, there is the adorable dog Cleo herself, who doesn’t speak but whose enthusiasm to participate in everything means that everyone loves her.
The CGI animation is delightful, and the co-direction by Jean-François Pouliot and François Brisson is spot on. Cleo is spoken in English only, and is bound to entertain kids and adults alike, regardless of if they’ve ever been snowbound.
Reviewed by Rod Lewis
Rating out of 10: 8
Cleo (AKA Snowtime) will be released on DVD on 3 November 2016.