Review: Jingle All the Way

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You know when, in those movies like Air Bud or MVP: Most Valuable Primate, they just kind of leave the camera rolling until those poor animals finally kinda, sorta, happen to do what the script said? That’s exactly what it’s like to watch Arnold Schwarzenegger in Jingle All the Way. Sure, the 1996 film may not have aged very gracefully, but there is a timeless quality to how poor a grasp Arnold has of the English language. You’d almost believe that he came up with all the lines himself if you hadn’t seen a screenwriter’s name in the credits.

Now, does one bad actor spoil an entire movie? Oftentimes yes, but in this case there is enough talent around to drag Jingle out of the gutter.

You know when, in those movies like Air Bud or MVP: Most Valuable Primate, they just kind of leave the camera rolling until those poor animals finally kinda, sorta, happen to do what the script said? That’s exactly what it’s like to watch Arnold Schwarzenegger in Jingle All the Way. Sure, the 1996 film may not have aged very gracefully, but there is a timeless quality to how poor a grasp Arnold has of the English language. You’d almost believe that he came up with all the lines himself if you hadn’t seen a screenwriter’s name in the credits.

Now, does one bad actor spoil an entire movie? Oftentimes yes, but in this case there is enough talent around to drag Jingle out of the gutter.{{page_break}} Chuckle-worthy performances by Phil Hartman and Sinbad do a bit to ease the tension, not to mention the emotional boost given by the work of then-child-actor Jake Lloyd (who would go on to play young Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars: Episode I).

Story-wise, the script is pretty solid. So what if it takes you exactly where you think it will? It’s a kid’s Christmas movie – going against the formula would be nothing less than blasphemy. There’s a bit of tonal confusion about whether the film should be a cartoonish slap stick or a more realistic comedy, but it’s nothing that will ruin your experience. If anything from this film will wear on you, and something will, it is the constant assault of physical gags. Have you ever seen lots of things fall off shelves? Well if not, you’re in luck because it happens a few thousand times in this movie. And, no, it doesn’t get any funnier after an hour of watching.

Unfortunately for the film, however, Jingle All the Way lacks one key element for kid movie success – the emotional connection. Each scene definitely feels like it should be tugging at your heart-strings, but somehow every one just ends up falling flat. The reason for this hollow distance between the viewer and story is very obviously Mr. Schwarzenegger’s acting. It just feels creepy to have a role that seems like it was written for a very white-bread American actor filled by a hulking beast of a man that has trouble with pronouns.

So, can you enjoy Jingle All the Way? Absolutely. It will elicit laughter on a fairly regular basis, but only because of how ridiculous of a spectacle the film is. There's almost no way to be bored, as the action is virtually non-stop with one set piece after another. And, for whatever reason, there is an insanely good use of reindeer puppetry. So there’s that.

Overall Score: 5.25 – Bad(5s are movies that either failed at reaching the goals it set out to do, or didn’t set out to do anything special and still had many flaws. Some will enjoy 5s, but unless you’re a fan of this genre, you shouldn’t see it, and might not even want to rent it.)

Jingle All the Way is an amusing experience if you have any nostalgia for the 90’s. Make sure you’re feeling ironic then enjoy the ridiculousness. Want some real Christmas heartwarming? Go somewhere else.

Andres Bolivar:

Overall Score: 5.25 – Bad. Jingle All the Way is a terrible movie if you take it seriously. Once you strip it down and accept the ridiculousness of it all, despite being a terrible movie, it’s so much fun. Despite giving it such a low score, I can’t help but recommend grabbing a couple of beers and seeing this with friends. If you ever wanted to see Arnold Schwarzenegger punch a reindeer in the f*cking face, this is the movie for you. You can read the full review here.

Andrew Kauz:

Overall Score: 6.25 – Okay. Jingle All the Way is really, really dumb, even for an Arnold comedy. But it's also a fun Christmas experience that tackles the inherent commercialism of the holiday without making you feel dirty and tired afterward. Watch it if it's on, but don't seek it out.  You can read the full review here.