Jingle All the Way.
It's just a few days until Christmas and Howard Langston (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is in trouble. Running his own business, his home and family life has suffered, his son, Jamie (Jake Lloyd), especially upset because his Dad missed his latest karate performance. How to make up for this slight? Why with toys of course! Jamie wants nothing more than a Turbo Man action figure, the hottest toy around for this Christmas season. Howard thinks nothing of it, telling his son that he'll have one Christmas morning except there's a problem. He was supposed to pick one up weeks ago, and now on Christmas Eve, Turbo Man is sold out....well, everywhere. What to do? Howard hits the streets with no time to spare, vowing to Jamie and himself that he'll get a Turbo Man no matter what it takes. Can he somehow, some way find one though? He's got his work cut out for him.
I must have been a weird kid or something. Yeah, I knew that, nothing new there. While I love Christmas -- still do -- I must have been the right age at different points growing up because I never begged my parents for Tickle Me Elmo, Power Rangers, Ferbies, assorted video game systems for Christmas presents. Every year though the news reports about that one toy that every kid WANTS, NEEDS and SHOULD have. These new reports are typically followed by video clips of parents beating each other, arguing and fighting, stomping over each other to get to that last toy on the shelf. That's clearly what this 1990s comedy is having some fun with, poking and jabbing at how ridiculous Christmas can be. It's become too commercialized, and it gets a little worse with each passing holiday season.
Enough of that, let's move on. All those things about greed and capitalism and the commercialization of the Christmas season are one thing, but this isn't that smart, that deep a movie. It cracks me up to read reviews that praise this X-Mas comedy as an ahead of its time satire that wants to deliver a message. Yeah, about that....just N-O. This is a fun, stupid and at times in pretty poor taste comedy. I still like/love it because of all that badness, because I still remember seeing it in theaters with my Dad and my sister growing up. Watching it through 28-year old eyes as opposed to 12-year old eyes, it didn't resonate as well, the bad qualities starting to reveal itself far more than I remembered. Is it still good? You bet, but it's most definitely a guilty pleasure. 'Jingle' benefits from some on-location shooting in Minneapolis and the Mall of America and a Christmas Eve story is still a good jumping off point. As well, a Christmas-themed soundtrack adds to the atmosphere.
Seriously though, I mean come on. Arnold Schwarzenegger!!! This is an amazing performance from one of Hollywood's greatest action heroes. And you know what Hollywood was screaming for? A screwball comedy about an overworked Dad (with a heavy, heavy accent) who's slowly losing his mind. I'll give him credit where it's due. Schwarzenegger freaking commits to this part. It's still really easy to have some fun with him and his overacting, but it would have been a truly bad movie if he half-assed it. There's too many quality moments here to mention from Arnie's Howard pretending to be a ninja with his son, fighting a bunch of con men Santas with an immense candy cane, chasing a young girl down because she has a bouncy ball that could be his key to winning a Turbo Man, basically one thing after another slowly chipping away at his mental state. Making it worse? He keeps running into, working with and working against a similarly pissed off mailman, Myron (Sinbad), similarly searching for a Turbo Man for his son.
The story focuses on Schwarzenegger's toy adventures, following him from stores and malls to black market warehouses, radio stations to back home and everywhere in between. It's a story that certainly covers a lot of ground in its 89-minute running time. Who else to look for in a smallish ensemble? Phil Hartman as Ted, the Langston's seemingly perfect neighbor and a single Dad, Rita Wilson as Howard's wife, Liz, Robert Conrad as a police officer who keeps running into Howard, Martin Mull as a radio DJ who gets the misfortune of meeting Howard and Myron, and even Jim Belushi as the leader of the group of Santa Clause con men with his black market elves.
Maybe what I took away from 'Jingle' this time around is why people think this is an ahead of its time satirical comedy. It's really surprisingly dark at times. It's hinted that Hartman's Ted is basically sleeping with all of the neighborhood wives, with Wilson's Liz hopefully next up on the list. At one point, Sinbad's Myron pretends a package he's carrying is a bomb....except it's actually a bomb. At one point, a little person (Verne Troyer I believe) gets punched across a warehouse like a rag doll. By the end when Howard is using a jet pack that actually works and fighting a now-deranged Myron, it becomes almost surreal. A different movie than the one I remember watching as a kid, but still a decent flick.
Jingle All the Way (1996): ** 1/2 /****