Redubbed in English for American audiences, the French Canadian animated feature “Snowtime!” is initially charming enough, especially if you love the white stuff. Set somewhere in Quebec, in a small, picturesque, snowbound town during the two weeks of winter break, the story concerns a marathon snowball fight between two groups of school-age children. Lasting several days and revolving around the shifting control over an elaborate fort that the kids have built, the battle — or war, as the film’s animated poppets call it, somewhat grimly — is all fun and games until someone gets hurt.
A startlingly inappropriate tragedy in the final act drives home the film’s pacifist message, while virtually ensuring that the youngest and most sensitive viewers will be left in a puddle of tears.
That, of course, raises the question of whom this movie is for. The first release in a projected series of Canadian films called “Tales for All,” “Snowtime!” is off-puttingly grown-up for the audience it seems to court, while also simplistic to the point of tedium for anyone much older. For those, say, age 8 and up, the movie holds “nothing to report, other than extreme boredom,” as one of the child soldiers says during a lull in the hostilities.
Then, out of the blue, the movie turns terribly sad and serious, casting a chill over what had been a perfectly good snow day.
PG. At area theaters. Contains disturbing thematic material and some rude humor. 83 minutes.