Christian’s Christmas: Jingle All the Way (1996)

By Christian DiMartino

Do people like Jingle all the Way? Not sure if it’s a movie anyone cares about, but maybe we revisit it at Christmas time because it isn’t awful. Well, okay, it’s kind of bad. At times, it’s bad. As a kid, it was enjoyable enough to get by. With time though, I just sort of realized that it wasn’t very good and after a while it stopped becoming a Christmastime staple. However, I find myself watching the same movies every year, and as of late, it’s felt like time to switch it up. Revisiting it last night, we have reached a verdict: some of it is undeniably funny, and it’s thoroughly entertaining, but the final act is unbelievably awful.

Revisiting it last night, there were moments that undeniably made me cackle- sometimes I was laughing at it, sometimes with it. It should also be said that I was pretty drunk. Anyways, it doesn’t seem right to hate on a movie geared for families and children. Not that that’s stopped me before, but there are so many dreadful family movies that Jingle all the Way sort of gets a pass because it’s not TOO bad. To further that, there are a lot of awful Christmas movies as well. Because I have seen the bottom of the barrel and seen the depths of hell (cough Christmas with the Kranks), Jingle all the Way gets a slight slap on the wrist. It’s a close call, definitely, and some could still make the argument that it is awful, because at times it is. Yet consider this my Christmas present to Arnold Schwarzenegger.

I’ll just come out and say it: I love the guy. He’s a big goof, and not really much of an actor. Yet he has such a warm, watchable presence on screen that I’d watch him in anything. Of course the first two Terminator movies are historical, but he’s always been able to pull off movies that are ludicrously entertaining (if you haven’t seen Commando, treat yourself) but he also manages to deliver comedy well (Kindergarten Cop is a treasure as well). I don’t know, besides that one where he’s posing as a Russian mobster (Raw Deal was it?), the guy has the ability to not only stand out like a sore thumb but also be perfectly cast… he’s an enigma, but a thoroughly watchable one, and he’s part of what gets us through Jingle all the Way.

The film follows a workaholic dad named Howard (Schwarzenegger), who lays his disappointment on thick from the get-go. He has a really busy, successful night at work, and pushes his luck in terms of getting to his son’s karate practice on time. He is pulled over and shows up too late. This was back when cell phones were called “cellular devices,” so his wife Liz (Rita Wilson, looking great) isn’t able to text him or anything. Who was there though? Their neighbor, Ted (the late Phil Hartman, playing slimy all too well), whose son is friend’s with theirs, but who also totally has the hots for Liz.

His son, Jamie (Jake Lloyd) is obviously upset and distraught, and Howard knows that he done wrong. So he promises Jamie that he’ll do anything to make it up to him. That anything is that Jamie wants a TurboMan action figure. What Howard doesn’t realize is that it’s much sought after… and also that Christmas is in two days. Okay, two things: one, it’s two days before Christmas… this kid is obviously obsessed with TurboMan, as seen in the opening scene… what else is he getting for Christmas? Two, Liz is well aware that Jamie wants this thing, obviously more than Howard… it didn’t dawn on her to get it herself? Small potatoes.

Anyways, Howard tells them that he has to work on Christmas Eve, but he’ll be back in time for the Christmas parade. The work thing is of course a lie, and he sets off on an odyssey to acquire the TurboMan. Along the way, he has a run in with the law, strikes up a competitive rivalry with a deranged mailman (Sinbad), and becomes entangled in an underground world of Santa con artists, led by one played by Jim Belushi. Obviously it’s all over the top, and the set up is stupid, but drunk me couldn’t help but laugh. Trust me, I wasn’t proud.

The sequence with the Santa’s is the kind of silly, lurid comedy that is so stupid, I cannot help but laugh at it. Particularly the image of the late Verne Troyer getting punched in the face and flying across the warehouse. Again, I’m not proud of myself. There’s also the image of Schwarzenegger punching a rabid moose that, again, I’m not proud. There’s also Sinbad, who is probably loathed in the way that Chris Tucker is but… like Chris Tucker, I do believe that he has a way of somewhat bringing life to it. Without Sinbad, you’d have a movie of mostly corny moments, with the exception of finding amusement of impersonating AH-NUHLD!

Again, there’s funny stuff here. Or, at least, stuff that my immature side finds funny. What doesn’t work? Little things. Everyone’s obsession with this doll is a little frightening. There is mass hysteria and even deranged savagery about these people. People are this insane over a toy on Christmas Eve? God, I wouldn’t want to see them on Black Friday. Again though, this is a family romp, so maybe putting too much thought into it is a losing battle. Until the final act (more on that in a bit), what really gets in the way of Jingle all the Way is the hugging and the learning, but in particular, anything involving Jake Lloyd.

Alright, I feel bad. This performance, even as a kid, never worked for me. When I got older, I discovered that in 1999, a bunch of middle age low-lives (who perhaps still live in their parents’ basements) tore Lloyd to shreds because of his ghastly performance in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. It ruined his life, crushed his spirit, and he’s since gone on to make documentaries or something. I know the performance is bad, there’s no changing that, but he was a child. A child put out to slaughter, mind you, but that doesn’t excuse the verbal abuse that was probably inflicted. I’m not here to talk about Star Wars though, I’m here for Jingle all the Way. Perhaps he isn’t to blame. I blame the parents, who must’ve encouraged him to pursue acting. I also blame the filmmakers for deeming him an actor. This was 1996, was Elijah Wood not available? I mean, I’ve seen North, and this is a masterpiece compared to that.

So yeah, Jingle all the Way is mindless entertainment that has elements that don’t work, but it’s thoroughly watchable. Except the final act. Guys, this is just unspeakably stupid. There is so much wrong with it, I don’t even know where to start. This is a Christmas parade in Minnesota, and they’re able to afford a jetpack. Not just one that raises you up a little- Arnold soars through the friggin’ city. Also, this was 1996… the visual effects weren’t this bad. Also, Arnold is dressed as TurboMan, and calls out Jamie’s name, to which Jamie says, “He knows my name!” Now, I recognize the voice of pretty much anyone in my life. Arnold Schwarzenegger has as distinct of an accent as anyone… you didn’t make this connection? His wife is in the audience too, she didn’t make this connection? Also, she swoons over his costume whenever she makes the discovery, as if Arnold isn’t a big Austrian beefcake. Also, Sinbad’s Byron the mailman is chasing this kid up buildings and stuff, and even the police say, “oh, it’s all part of the show!” Dumb. The fact that Byron is trying to kill a child over a doll. Dumb. The fact that Jamie is willing to risk his life over a toy. Dumb. It’s so, so, so, so… so, very stupid.

But… I guess it’s harmless. And it’s Christmas, and you caught me being generous. Merry Christmas!

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