Dec 20, 2014

Review: Jingle All the Way (1996)

When I finally discovered Arnold Schwarzenegger, movie watching changed forever for me. I wanted to see every single movie he ever appeared in and I've come pretty close to doing that. Arnold oozes charisma, he's got some pretty solid comedic timing and he's the size of a tree. He's too cool for school and if I met him in person I'd probably turn into a thirteen year old or something. 

Jingle All the Way is the part of Arnold's career where he decided to mix it up a bit with the odd comedy role. It was definitely a risky decision given his action hero persona, but it's one that paid off for him as well as studios. This started with Twins in 1988 and Jingle is pretty much the ending bookmark to that chapter until his tiny cameo in Around the World in 80 Days in 2004 (which is hilarious by the way). I suppose you could consider Batman & Robin which came out in 1997 as a pure comedy, but that's a matter of opinion.

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Genre: comedy, family
Directed by: Brian Levant
Produced by: Michael Barnathan, Chris Columbus, Mark Radcliffe, etc.
Written by: Randy Kornfield
Music by: David Newman
Running time: 89 minutes
Production company: 1492 Pictures, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
Distributed by: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, 20th Century Fox, Alta Films, etc.
Country: United States
Language: English
Budget: $60,000,000
Box office: $129,832,389 (Worldwide)

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sinbad, Phil Hartman, Rita Wilson, Jake Lloyd, Robert Conrad, Martin Mull, James Belushi, E.J. De La Pena, Laraine Newman, Justin Chapman, Harvey Korman, Richard Moll, Daniel Riordan, Jeff L. Deist, Nada Despotovich, Ruth Afton Hjelmgren

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Synopsis


Howard Langston (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is a hard-working mattress salesman who unfortunately has very little time to spend with his wife and son. Realizing that he's got to make it up to Jamie (Jake Lloyd) this Christmas, buying him a Turbo-Man action figure is a must which will prove very difficult to accomplish. It is THE holiday toy of the year and Howard could have already had one if he had listened to his wife Liz (Rita Wilson) two weeks ago when she told him to buy a Turbo-Man. Christmas Eve becomes a mad adventure for Howard as he tries to get his hands on the elusive Turbo-Man. 

Review


Jingle All the Way ends up being a very weird and bad mix of family comedy, family-themed drama and cartoony action violence that is all wrapped up in an anti-materialistic message. Brian Levant does a very unconvincing job at bringing all these pieces together and he crosses the ridiculous line on many occasions.
Arnold drinking beer with a reindeer? Yup, you can see that in JAtW if you want. Randy Kornfield probably deserves some of the blame as well since this is his script. What kind of a name is Kornfield anyway?

In spite of Levant and Kornfield, Jingle All the Way is fun in a few ways due to its badness. Personally, I also like the idea that inspired by the mad Christmas rushes for Cabbage Patch Kids. The problem is that there there's just an awful effort going from the more comedic scenes into the more serious family drama scenes. You can't just go all serious like that on the turn of a dime and Levant does this a few times.

I don't fault Arnold for anything though, he's my golden boy. What I'll say is that his comedic timing isn't 100% on point in Jingle All the Way, but he gets a pass for the most. He goes the extra mile for a role that makes him look like a fool quite a few times. Arnold just rolls with it though and you can tell that he's not sleepwalking in what is a role he easily could've. He also serves up a couple of classic lines like "And don't forget, you're my number one customah" as well as "Put that cookie down! Now!" 

Sinbad as the anti-buddy Myron Larabee is at times OK to a bit over the top. He's a smart choice for contrast alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger, but I do get the feeling that he's trying a bit too hard at times. Maybe this is what Levant wanted Sinbad to do, but a little more restraint would've been better I think. Like Arnold, you can't fault Sinbad for his enthusiasm and effort.

Jingle All the Way definitely could've used more Phil Hartman though who does a great sleazy neighbour. Some of his conversations with other single moms in the neighbourhood cross the family-friendly line of acceptability but it's the kind of thing kids shouldn't be able to clue into anyway. Also, Jake Lloyd who will never live down being Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace is actually OK in Jingle All The Way.

There is an incredible amount of cheesiness in the last 15 minutes or so of Jingle All the Way, but this might be where the film finds that perfect balance of being so bad, it's good. (Spoilers) Howard Langston finds himself as Turbo-Man for the Christmas parade and has the chance to set things right with his family. It includes an extended jet pack sequence with some awful CGI as well as a fight against Myron dressed up as Turbo-Man's nemesis Dementor. (End Spoilers) You honestly just have to see the cheesiness to be able to believe it.

Brian Levant's direction really is a let down in Jingle All the Way. Amid wild scrambles and ridiculous situations, you lose out on enjoying Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sinbad as performers who are left to do the best they can on their own. Victor J. Kemper as the cinematographer deserves some of the blame as well because JAtW is far from being a well put together film visually. Besides seeing Arnold, there's very reason to actually see Jingle All the Way at any time, Christmas or not.

Rating


5/10