Jingle All The Way
There is something about Christmas movies; they rarely if ever have to make a lot of sense. This is especially true if the flick is a comedy. After all this is a season for fantasy and whimsy which is often a combination just right for a silly film. The movie ‘Jingle All the Way’ is such a flick. It makes little sense at all and many have used it as a punch line for jokes. When you think of a silly comedy most likely the name Arnold Schwarzenegger does not come to mind but the man has made more than a few humorous flicks. My wife and I love ‘Kindergarten Cop’ and ‘Twins’ for example. While this is far from the best comedy the big guy has ever appeared in there is a certain charm to it. The film could have been a lot better but it does work as harmless family holiday entertainment. We are used to seeing Schwarzenegger battling alien creatures or taking on an entire army with ease but to watch as he squares off against the comedian Sinbad; well, it’s priceless. This is not a film targeted at adults. If you try to make sense out of it or apply the usual standards of film making to it you will be disappointed. On the other hand if you need a few chuckles than this will deliver; not a lot of outright laughs but you will smile during the movie. The film had a low budget for a Schwarzenegger flick, about $60 million and it just managed to recoup this in its theatrical run. It did do better on DVD where your friends wouldn’t see you on line to watch it. After being out for a few years on regular DVD the flick has made its way to the high definition format of Blu-ray. Now you can see Schwarzenegger try to do comedy with a much better picture and sound. This is basically just the high def version of the previously released ‘Family Fun Edition’. This features the extended director’s cut of the film just in case you really want to see how this flick was ‘envisioned’ by the film maker. The flick is basically funny because of its many flaws and the kids will enjoy seeing a very big man act like a maniac.
The film was written by Randy Kornfield. He had four scripts before this one. All were dramas and thrillers so this was his initial try at comedy. He did go on to writing ‘Eight Legged Freaks’ which also has a reputation of being a less than perfect flick. There is actually a core of a good idea for this story. It is about a man who has ignored his family in favor of his job who wants to get his kid the Christmas present he craves. When he gets to the only store that still has the toy he discovers that every other parent in town has the same idea. He battles another parent played by Sinbad for the last of this toy. The concept came from the near riots that broke out in the eighties over the cabbage patch dolls. The news back then was filled with stories of parents fighting for the doll frequently getting close to sheer mayhem. In subsequent years such conditions have come about again with the most popular toy in short demand and a mob of parents after it. While this is a shameful condition for any parent to lower themselves to kids usually like to watch grown ups acting like complete and utter idiots. There is one other plot line that does come across as pure filler. While Schwarzenegger is out chasing the toy his neighbor is chasing his wife. This does pad the length but it is a little over the head of the primary audience here.
Directing this film was Brian Levant. He was a staff writer for ‘Happy Days’ and directed a number of family flicks including both live action ‘Flintstone’ movies, ‘Beethoven’ and ‘Snow Dogs’. All of these films have wackiness inherent to them. To his credit Levant has a way of presenting a kid’s flick in such a way that will keep the younger set engaged. There is a lot of chases and cartoon like action that is punctuated by the unwanted romantic advances of the aforementioned neighbor. It appears that Levant uses that story line to give the kids a bathroom break in between the adults acting as silly as possible. He also sets up Schwarzenegger to do one thing that he is generally good at in his comedies; self deprecation and self parody. There is a fight with a legion of Santas that will make most people laugh. This is a send up of the action movies that Schwarzenegger is most famous for. There are some sight gags that are cleverly placed like one with an action figure of Schwarzenegger as ‘Hercules in New York’, his first big break in films. This will never replace ‘Home Alone’ for the holiday zany flick or record but it taken in the right frame of mind it isn’t as bad as some state.
Howard Langston (Schwarzenegger) has a wife Liz (Rita Wilson) and young son Jamie (Jake Lloyd) but they usually come second to his job as a sale representative. He is fast to tell a client that they are his favorite and is surprised when the same line only makes his wife irate. Making matters worse is the fact that his next store neighbor, Ted Maltin (Phil Hartman) seems to be the perfect father; well at least on the surface. Howard has missed most of the big moments in Jamie’s life but when he is absent for a big karate match the boy is more than disappointed. This also brings the wrath of Liz upon him. With his entire family angry at him Howard is desperate to redeem himself in their eyes. The one thing Jamie wants more than anything else for Christmas is am action figure based on a popular cartoon series ‘Turbo Man’. Howard as put off shopping for his son’s present until the last minute, Christmas Eve, and naively sets out to the store. ‘Turbo Man’ is the season’s most popular toy and it appears that every parent in the city had the same idea as Howard. With most stores long sold out of the toy Howard has to search the city in hopes of finding one. A postal worker, Myron Larabee (Sinbad) is in the same situation and soon the men are engaged in an all out war for the toy. With Liz home alone Ted decides to help the ‘lonely’ housewife out with his unwanted attentions. The culmination of the film is in the Christmas parade where Howard dons the disguise of Turbo Man to get the coveted toy. Since this is a Christmas family flick it should come as no surprise that in the end Jamie loves his father and Howard has learned the importance of family.
The film is ridiculous and goes over the top constantly. It is, however, just silly enough to keep the kids quiet awhile while you hide their presents. The DVD from Fox also sports a making of feature in case you are a film maker who wants to know what mistakes to avoid. The new Blu-ray release is near perfect in its presentation. The video is crisp and clean supported by a flawless DTS HD audio.