This is the fifth in a series of posts, The Twelve Days of Christmas Movies. Each one will review/talk about a different Christmassy film and the whole thing spans 12 days – one film per day. You can read the original post about it (which also lists all 12 days of movies) here.
It’s the fifth day of Christmas movies; that means we’re almost half-way to the end! Today I watched the lowest IMDB-rated film on the list: Jingle All the Way. I put a great deal of trust in IMDB ratings, so I would probably have been expecting to dislike this film, or at least think it was badly made. But that would only be if I hadn’t seen it before. As things stood at the start of the film, I had watched it multiple times before, having mostly enjoyed it each time. Since my last time watching it, though, I had watched many more films and become more critical of those I saw. So this time around, I was viewing it with different eyes. Did that change my overall opinion of it? You’ll have to wait and see.
Jingle All the Way stars Arnold Schwarzenegger (I’m being serious here) in the role of an unreliable father and husband, named Howard, who works all the time, never keeps his promises, and is constantly letting down his son and wife. It’s not that he’s a bad guy, but he never prioritises family-related tasks highly enough to get them done when other obstacles get in the way. When he misses his son’s karate belt-giving ceremony, his wife and son get quite annoyed with him. In order to make up with him, Howard promises to buy Jamie (his son) a Turbo Man doll for Christmas. Turbo Man is a fictional action hero that Jamie – along with every other child in the entire world – adores. When Howard tells his wife about making this promise, she asks him if he has gotten the doll already. This is when it becomes clear that Howard was meant to have already bought one, even though he hasn’t. Howard, unfortunately, pretends that he has bought one. What this means is that he then has to go on a mad-dash mission around the town, trying desperately to find a Turbo Man doll. But seeing as the doll is selling super fast and there are basically none left to buy, Howard’s task is a somewhat challenging one.
At some point in his adventure, Howard becomes involved in a contest with Myron (by the end of the film, I still wasn’t sure if his name was Byron or Marion), an in-your-face postman played by Sinbad, who also wants to get a Turbo Man for his own son. Meanwhile, Howard’s wife and son are preparing to go to the Christmas Eve parade – an event Howard has promised to be there for – whilst the family’s repulsively perfect, interfering neighbour Ted (Phil Hartman) basically tries to steal Howard’s wife. Additionally featured in the story is a run-in with a shopping centre Santa, played by James Belushi, who runs a Christmas toys black market with a bunch of other mall Santas.
Jingle All the Way is not by any means an excellently made film. It has multiple issues, including questionable acting, dodgy camera shots, and an obviously contrived script. There are several cringey parts of the film, such as when Ted temporarily keeps a pet reindeer (also named Ted) as a Christmas gift for his son. He apparently intends to set it free into a group of wild reindeer once Christmas is over. Even if he seems flawless at first, at least it’s clear that the man knows nothing about animals. The recurring use of dwarf actors to portray “Santa’s little helpers” is also not overly pleasant to watch, but it’s bearable.
But while Jingle All the Way isn’t good in terms of production, plot, script, and so on, its ultimate redeeming quality is that it isn’t under any illusions about this fact. It doesn’t present itself as being up for an Oscar or becoming the family comedy of the year. It’s a silly film and it knows it. That is the thing that stops Jingle All the Way from being a flat-out bad film, and if you stop trying to pick flaws in it and just watch, it can actually be an enjoyable movie. It’s a fairly harmless film, and there are quite a few funny parts that an average person has a good chance of laughing at – provided you’re not looking for high entertainment. Granted, it is the sort of film that can be rather frustrating for much of the time – as Howard’s plans constantly go wrong and his family never stop to listen to his explanations – but I’ll tell you now that it all ends happily. There, I spoiled the ending. Still, now that you know that, you have a better chance of not tearing your hair out every time a person misses the opportunity to punch Ted (the man, not the reindeer) in the face.
So, all things considered, Jingle All the Way is a fine film. It’s not one of those films, like Die Hard, that I would recommend to basically anyone, but it is probably worth watching at least once. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the rest of cast are pretty entertaining, the awkward bits are bearable, and the ending is sufficiently heart-warming for a Christmas film. My suggestion would be to not take this film too seriously. If you do, you probably won’t like it. But if you’re willing to give it a chance as some light comedy, you might genuinely enjoy it.
Overall rating: 5/10
Christmassy-ness rating: 6/10
Mary’s parental guidance rating: PG
Tomorrow’s film: It’s a Wonderful Life