Jingle All the Way (1996)

jingle_all_the_way_posterOh joy, the time has come for schlocky family comedies to invade the TV screens for the holidays. This one is very much typical for its time, with its formulaic, sitcom style plot, though it’s the kind one can accept at around Christmas time, and nowhere else. It also has the misfortune of being one of those mid-career Schwarzenegger films where he tries to do something other than what he’s best at, with mixed results.

The plot is simple enough. Arnold Schwarzenegger plays Howard Langston, a workaholic dad who can’t seem to find any time for his wife and son, who are spending more time with their neighbour Ted Maltin, who consistently denigrates Howard while passing himself off as the “good neighbour”.

In order to make up for well-meaning yet inept parenting, he vows to get his son the hot-selling “Turbo Man” action figure, which is all but sold out. He also winds up in a race with a stressed out postman named Myron Larabee, who wants to get his son the same action figure, but there’s only one left, and they have to fight each other over it.

Of course, the immediate criticism levelled at the film was that the film was made to sell an actual “Turbo Man” toy. Truth be known, the producers were actually planning to do that, but the film was shot so quickly that there wasn’t enough time left for the merchandising, and whatever merchandise was made was limited to a replica of the Turbo Man in the film, and in significantly lower quantities compared to the likes of Space Jam, which had the good fortune of being released in the same year, at around the same time, and outperforming it in the box office (despite being even more of a ridiculous commercialist farce of a film).

In terms of actual substance, the story is only slightly more advanced than a by-the-numbers sitcom episode, but at least we’re free not to have to expose our ears to a laugh track. That said, in terms of family fare, it’s not that bad. I’ve definitely seen worse holiday films (The Santa Clause 3 for instance), and this one at least tries to pass for decent family-oriented entertainment, but it definitely has its flaws, with the main flaw being its less than clever script.

The acting isn’t too bad, but I don’t see Schwarzenegger are a comedic actor. In fact, most of the time he’s funny because the idea of him as a comedic actor is absurd. Phil Hartman, meanwhile, fits perfectly in the film. I would say the same is true with Sinbad, but to a lesser extent. If I’m going to be completely honest, some of the jokes were a bit lazy, and a lot of the humour comes from zany, slightly over-the-top acting from the three main characters, with a bit of support from the minor characters, but it’s not bad.

As far as holiday films go, this isn’t the worst you could pick. There are several worse options you could consider, but sadly this one might be little on the underrated side. If you want to see Arnold Schwarzenegger at least try his luck in a purely comedic role alongside the late Phil Hartman, this might be the film for you. I’d also recommend this for any parents looking to huddle around the TV with their children for a family flick that isn’t completely sterile. In other words, it’s decent, but no more than that.

  • Score: 60%
  • Grade: C
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