December 15, 2013

Movie Review: Jingle All the Way (1996)

It is that wonderful time of year, Christmas is nearly upon us. You know, the rushing around, the gift buying for people you see once a year, the snubs, the fights, the difficulty in finding the right thing. It is enough to make someone..... well, want to curl into the fetal position until spring. Anyway, I always feel the need to squeeze in a couple of holiday themed films. There are the annual ones like A Christmas Story, Christmas Vacation, and Elf, but I also try to take in a few others and it isn't close enough to the big day for Black Christmas (original, of course). So, I have decided to revisit Jingle All the Way.

This 1996 release starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sinbad, and Phil Hartman was directed by Brian Levant (The Flintstones, The Spy Next Door) and written by Randy Kornfeld (Eight Legged Freaks). When it came out, it proved to be a modest hit. It has been a long time since I have actually watched it. I always remember it for the bad taste it leaves in my mouth. I was never much of a fan of this and I was a little curious to see if I had the same reaction, it has been some time and I do look at things differently.

Well, as it turns out, I do not always see things differently and reactions do no change with age. I still do not like Jingle All the Way. It is a movie that wallows in commercialization of the holiday, is filled with unlikable folk, gives a child a fractured idea of self, and then tries to save it all with a happenstance of convergence that does not ring true.

Jingle All the Way is said to have been inspired by the Cabbage Patch Kid craze in the 1980's. Seems about right, as this is a film steeped in commercialism and shows people at their worst. Ugh, this movie just really gets to me. It is like when I see those Black Friday videos of people trampling each other for a cheap toaster, the ugliness that seems to infect people with the idea of a sale until it drives them to a state of complete nastiness. All this on the day after we are supposedly trying to celebrate a thankfulness for what we have.

Arnold stars as Howard, a man dedicated to his job to the point that he is not there for his family. He has a son, Jamie (Jake Lloyd, the future Anakin Skywalker), who has grown accustomed to being letdown by his absentee father, angered over the continued breaking of promises. Howard has a wife, Liz (Rita Wilson), who is tired, spread to thin and left wanting for her husband. Then there is their neighbor (Phil Hartman), a separated husband and single father who is looking for a new lady, and despite other single moms throwing themselves at him, he has his eyes set on the lonely housewife, left by Howard.

That is only part of it, as Howard, the absentee forgetful father has neglected to get his son the Christmas gift that he wants and it is already Christmas Eve. This bit of news is revealed through a bargaining session with the tyke who is disappointed by another of his dad's broken promises. Howard thinks he can regain his son's affections by buying him a toy, not recognizing that what he wants is his father.

What follows is a slapstick journey to Hollywood-styled pseudo-redemption as he lies to his wife and heads out on a search of that special toy. Of course, no one has it. So, our “hero” heads off on any slim lead he can find, in constant competition with a like minded mailman, Myron (Sinbad). We follow him going from store to store, crashing a radio station, finding an organization of criminal Santa's (led by James Belushi), before stumbling into the inexplicable moment that is supposed to see him change.

This movie just really does not sit well as it seems to want to celebrate commercialism and bargaining with children for their affections. Sure, it has an ending that seeks to show change, but it is too little too late. It feels more like a tacked on moment used as a way to justify all that has gone on before it.

I am not sure I will ever like this movie. On top of that, I never realized just how whiny Jake Lloyd was as a kid, sure he has a reason to here, but this follows him onto the set of The Phantom Menace. I would think this movie would have disqualified him from contention. The acting is fine for the most part, this is an over the top movie, after all. I don't know, people seem to like it. Perhaps I am looking too deeply and what I get is not really there. Well, intentional or not, this does not seem like the right way to spread holiday cheer.

Not Recommended.

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