Jingle All the Way – 3 out of 5
I saw Jingle All the Way in the theater when it came out in 1996 and thought it was one of the dumbest things I’ve ever seen. I found the humor corny and had a hard time reconciling seeing my favorite action hero Arnold Schwarzenegger in an over-the-top goofy comedy. The film went on to be a hacky joke in my world and would be referenced endlessly while I was in college on my radio show (we frequently had “celebrity guests” and me impersonating Arnold was one of them). However, for this Christmas Eve, I decided to give the movie another shot and ended finding charm in it that I overlooked when I was an angst-y grunge-loving teenager.
|He should get back to the choppa...the corporate choppa.|
He has to meet with some clients.
Howard Langston (Schwarzenegger) is a workaholic father who barely has time for his wife Liz (Rita Wilson) and son Jamie (Jake Lloyd). In the meantime, his neighbor Ted (Phil Hartman) seems to be trying to weasel his way into Liz’s life and take Howard’s place. After missing an important karate class of Jamie’s, Howard is desperate to win (buy) back his child’s love and he promises that he will get him the most popular toy of the season, the action hero doll Turbo-Man. The only problem, he didn’t listen to his wife several weeks ago when she told him to get one and now has to try and locate one at the last minute. He soon learns he's not alone and finds a rival in mailman Myron Larabee (Sinbad) and neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night will stop that postal serviceman from getting what Howard is after.
I won’t make the argument that Jingle All the Way is a great movie or a fantastic holiday film to watch but revisiting it I realized that my own cynical teenager ways (because we took cynicism to an all-new level in the 90s) might have judged the film way too harshly. Yes, it’s still super cheesy and has a lot of dumb moments but I actually found it kinda fun watching it as an adult. It’s pure holiday fluff that’s all about the bright and shiny happiness of the season but it works and really is the right kind of fun fluff for the holidays.
|It's so dumb when the WWE's The Big Show (then WCW's The Giant) comes out|
and says, "I'm going to deck your halls" but, dammit, I sure laughed
my ass off at it.
Performance-wise, the players in Jingle All the Way really aren’t that bad. Jake Lloyd is a kid and is doing fine for what his character is, Rita Wilson is great as the wife of a work-obsessed husband and Phil Hartman is always hilarious—even though it’s a mystery why he’s considered the heartthrob of their cul-du-sac suburban community (look, I think the guy was funny and charming but he’s not really a stud muffin).
|Well, then again, he is funny and ladies love to laugh.|
Additionally, Sinbad, who plays a rival of Howard’s who is out to get his own Turbo-Man doll at the last minute, is doing a decent job in his role. Finally, Arnold has that undeniable charm that he brings to every role he does. As a teen, I didn’t appreciate it at all but, now that I’m older, I watch him and I see a man who genuinely enjoys what he is doing and is clearly giving his all to the role. It shows tremendously in this and, watching this now without the angst, he’s incredibly fun as Howard.
|Remember how terrible fanboys were to Lloyd after The Phantom Menace?|
We are a collection of awful, awful people.
The comedy provided with this one is really simplistic slapstick that is all about over-the-top and cartoonish violence that you’d usually see in a situational comedy like this. The gags and sequences didn’t reinvent comedy when it first arrived and it’s not something that will go down in time as a redefining piece of work for the genre but carried by Arnold the whole simple idea is very effective and proved to be some goofy and sorta dumb fun. I love my popcorn action films that are just loud noises and visual splendor and this one is a family-friendly comedy version of that concept but with a Christmas theme and cartoon-like violence and shenanigans rather than explosions and fight scenes.
|Also, the film gives you Arnold in this suit and that alone is worth the price|
Jingle All the Way isn’t a high concept comedy with deep writing, intricate characters, nuanced performances and heavy atmosphere, story and plot. Nope. It’s just a simple Christmas story about a father trying to do right by his son and get him the toy he really wants but, in the end, they all learn that all they need is each other. Yes, the sappy moral is there and is heavy-handed but I’m not going to deny that I had fun revisiting and giving it another shot. I won’t even go as far to say that this movie is one of those “so bad, they’re dumb” films because I genuinely found it enjoyable thanks to its unique charm and the charisma that Schwarzenegger brings. I definitely judged this one too harshly years back.
|I'm going to look at this picture everyday and pretend it's Arnold trying to|
motivate me personally.