a critiQal film review Jingle All The Way (1996)

Plot: High-powered businessman Howard Langston (Schwarzenegger) doesn't seem to have enough time for his wife Liz (Wilson) or son Jamie (Lloyd). But, this Christmas Eve, he's determined to make it up to his son by buying Jamie the toy on ever kid's wish list: the Turbo Man action figure...all he has to do is find one.

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  • ...this uninspired film leaves Ah-nold floundering in his usual way in the apparently not-quite-translatable world of comedy.

Trying to decide what film was going to be next in our Christmas Movie Marathon, I got on blockbuster.com and started perusing their Christmas films. When I stumbled across Ah-nold’s entry, Jingle All The Way, I knew that was going to have to be the next film.

While Ah-nold is known for his action films, his comedies are usually another story. Whether it’s the ridiculous Twins or the equally silly Junior, his comedies usually leave something to be desired. So, would his stint in Jingle All The Way be more of the same, or would the Christmas theme finally make comedy work for Ah-nold?

One of the things about Ah-nold in his pre-guv’ner days, was his seemingly total lack of ego. No matter what a film wanted him to do, he jumped into it gleefully. Sure, most actors don’t help their careers by jumping into films that break them out of their genre, but it did work for Schwarzenegger. Maybe it’s just seeing this massive hulk of a guy get poked fun at – and laughing about it – but whatever the case may be, it seemed to endear him to viewers even more…even if the films with this type of self-depreciating humor weren’t all that good.

This self-depreciating humor continues in Jingle All The Way. Schwarzenegger portrays a rather busy sales exec who bumbles his way through his family life. When he finally screws up so bad his son won’t likely forgive him soon, he out-and-out promises the kid to buy him a toy, without even looking into how difficult it may be to find one.

Of course, the hilarity of the film is then all about Ah-nold doing dumber and dumber things to find this toy he’s promised to his kid. That’s where the self-depreciating humor comes in, as he literally flings himself about trying to find this toy. While Ah-nold’s glee at doing these rather idiotic things is both apparent and somewhat catching, viewers will probably get sick of the antics long before the film ends – especially when they start turning towards the criminal.

And then there’s Sinbad. After seeing the horrendous Houseguest (which co-starred with Phil Hartman), there seemed to be chance I would subject myself to a Sinbad movie again. Thankfully, Sinbad isn’t as bad in Jingle All The Way, apparently picking up on some of Ah-nold’s glee. Watching the two of them fling themselves through obstacles and at each other, it’s apparent both are having a great time doing it, so Sinbad’s utter lack of screen prescence is somewhat diminsihed in the fun melee of the chase.

Phil Hartman and the rest of the cast – except for a rather comical appearance by James Belushi as a con artist Santa – are laregly forgettable and almost utterly useless. Jake Lloyd – who would go on to star in as the youngest incarnation of Anakin Skywalker to date, plays the son decently enough, but it’s definitely not a performance to write home about. And the whole subplot involving Hartman and Rita Wilson is a total waste of screen time, thus negating any use whatsoever for Hartman’s character at all.

While the main body of the film isn’t all that bad – leading to a final confrontation that’s a bit ludicrous – it just doesn’t meet up with expectations. On paper this probably looked pretty good, but as the film seems to drag on – and as the happenstances in the film get both sillier and more criminal, the viewer begins to wonder when the film will finally end. Thankfully, the rather ludicrous ending does manage to grab the viewer’s attention once more – all the way through to the rather cheesy ending.

As far as family Christmas films go, Jingle All The Way is about what’s expected. It’s got adults doing silly things becuase of a kid and it all wraps up nicely in the end. Think Home Alone with the toy as Macaulay Culkin and Ah-nold and Sinbad as the inept burglars, and you’ll kind of have the right idea.

Unfortunately, modern family Christmas movies aren’t usually something worth seeing, and Jingle All The Way is no exception. While Ah-nold’s glee in putting himself in odd situations is a bit catching, the rest of the film doesn’t seem as inspired to involve the viewer, and leaves Ah-nold floundering in his usual way in the not-quite-translatable world of comedy.

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