Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sinbad, Phil Hartman, Rita Wilson, Robert Conrad, Martin Mull, Jake Lloyd, James Belushi, E.J. De La Pena, Laraine Newman, Justin Chapman, Harvey Korman, Richard Moll, Daniel Riordan
Directed by Brian Levant
Expectations: Low. This can’t be good. I’m just hoping for some good Arnold lines.
Fifteen years. Fifteen years it took to wear me down enough to accept the idea of watching this one. When Jingle All the Way was released in 1996 I was fifteen, and there was no way in hell I was going to watch my most favorite action star sliding around a department store in a battle with Sinbad for a stupid Power Rangers rip-off doll. No way, no how. These days I feel somewhat different about the whole thing. I don’t watch Arnold films hardly at all anymore and he’s been out of the Hollywood scene for several years so there hasn’t been anything new to entice me. Over these years I’ve slowly grown more and more desperate, willing to watch anything he was in, if only to hear him say stupid lines in that wonderful accent I love so well. During one of my more exuberant Arnold moments, I found myself watching as many Arnold quote compilation videos on YouTube as I could get my mouse on. One of these featured Arnold’s famous line from Jingle All the Way, “Put the cookie down! Now!” remixed into a techno song. This, coupled with a newfound enjoyment of Power Rangers, led me to say yes to Turbo Man and give Jingle All the Way a go.
I can’t say that I loved it, I can’t say that I hated it, instead I simply enjoyed it for what it was. The film is definitely aimed at someone who isn’t me, so many of the jokes or the gags fell flat, but there was enough there for me to remain entertained throughout the entire film. In a way it shares a lot of qualities with a far superior film, Planes, Trains and Automobiles, but where that film has deep, fulfilling character arcs and real heart, Jingle All the Way‘s heartful moments feel somewhat forced and obvious. The presence of Jake Lloyd (of Star Wars prequel infamy) was an unexpected hurdle. His acting was OK I guess, but the fact that I actively had to think about the Star Wars prequels was not a pleasant experience. I pride myself on being willing to review any and all films for this website, but those Star Wars prequels are on the short list of films I’m pretty adamant about never reviewing. I’ll stop myself now before this turns into a 4000 word rant on where the prequels went wrong.
Jingle All the Way is competently directed by Brian Levant, the man who brought you both Flintstones films and Beethoven among other family “gems”. You can insert your own jokes about his career here. All kidding aside, it is a well-shot and edited film for the most part, with excellent sequences like Arnold chasing down the little girl who has possession of a numbered ball that Arnold needs. Levant even takes a page right out of Verhoeven’s RoboCop during the finale, only showing a first-person camera perspective of Turbo Man before the big reveal. The scene isn’t nearly as effective as it is in RoboCop, but I appreciated the restraint this technique afforded the scene, even if it is a
blatant rip-off homage.
One thing that I found very interesting about Jingle All the Way was the use of special FX. The end features a ton of FX and because this is 1996, there’s a myriad of techniques being employed, from traditional props and physical suits, to blue-screen work and some computer generated FX. I’m always going to champion physical FX, but I thought the mix of techniques worked perfectly here and I would love to see modern movies revisit this style of special effect filmmaking, instead of relying almost completely on CG. Obviously, there are people like Peter Jackson and WETA who have continued using models and physical FX to great success in their Lord of the Rings films, but we need more!
I don’t have much to say about this one honestly. It’s only moderately funny, but it’s very fast-paced and always moving, having more in common with a bad-to-worse adventure film than a traditional comedy. I wish it had a deeper heart that ran through the entire film instead of just the closing moments. The rest of the film is a large-scale satire on the capitalist, consumer-based society, but instead of hitting hard and making a point (and why should it?), it feels pretty cold. I did have a good time watching Jingle All the Way, but I doubt I’ll ever watch it again. It is good to hear Arnold’s voice saying random dialogue again though. I’ll have to re-watch some of the classics.