Synopsis: In this hilarious holiday comedy, Arnold Schwarzenegger stars as a frantic father trying to buy a Turbo Man action figure for his son on Christmas Eve – unaware that it’s the season’s hottest-selling toy. So begins a take-no-prisoners battle involving a stressed-out mailman (Sinbad), a sleazy mall Santa (Jim Belushi) and dozens of other desperate dads!
eyelights: Phil Hartman. Jake Lloyd.
eyesores: Arnie’s acting. Sinbad. its humour. its commercialism.
“You can’t bench press your way out of this one.”
There was a time when Arnold Schwarzenegger was unbeatable. Though he gradually grew his box office appeal during the ’80s, by the end of it and at the beginning of the ’90s, which saw the release of his biggest hit yet, ‘Terminator 2: Judgment Day‘, he was a juggernaut.
Then he floundered.
1993’s ‘Last Action Hero’ was too self-aware for audiences and flopped miserably. Then came a string of desperate attempts at regaining the crown, with each effort dragging him further away from his glory days. 1994’s ‘True Lies’ was his last unabashed box office win.
By 1996, he couldn’t even get a remake of ‘The Planet of the Apes’ off the ground and was relegated to starring in a Christmas movie. ‘Jingle All the Way’ would find him sharing the screen with B-listers such as Sinbad, Phil Hartman, Rita Wilson, and James Belushi.
How the mighty had fallen – and that was before ‘Batman and Robin‘.
I still remember how hopeless the situation seemed: once incapable of doing any wrong, Arnie was freefalling before our eyes. I, too, was averse to seeing his films at this point. Oh, he hadn’t sunk to the lows of Stallone, but I certainly didn’t see ‘Jingle All the Way’.
The picture is a forgettable comedy about a busy businessman who can’t seem to find the time for his young son. When he realizes that he’s forgotten to get the much-coveted Turbo Man, a gift that he’d promised he’d get, he goes off on a last-minute quest to find it.
As he lines up at the local mall, he bumps into Myron, another desperate father looking for a Turbo Man figurine. At every turn, he keeps running into Myron, who wants to team up. Howard refuses, and they become rivals. He also keeps getting into trouble with the same cop.
Watch as he tries to prevent a little girl from getting a winning lottery ball (and is beat up for his efforts), follows a mall Santa to a clandestine operation (and gets into a fight with Santas), tries to win a Turbo Man on a radio show (and Myron turns this into a bomb threat).
Watch as, meanwhile, Ted, his womanizing next-door neighbour, is making moves on Liz, his spouse, and winning favour with Charlie, his son. Watch as it leads Howard to take extreme measures to get his life back in order and to win back his family’s love – including B&E.
Watch… and groan.
‘Jingle All the Way’ is so contrived and dumb it’s beyond words. Like, as if Howard’s spouse couldn’t see through his BS when he pretends he’s gotten a gift, pretends he has to go to work, …etc. Surely she knows better; it’s not like he’s telling convincing lies or anything!
He’s a very poor liar.
Seriously, Arnie’s never been much of an actor; his best turn is as a cybernetic unit, a robot. But here, he’s absolutely dreadful! For instance, it hurt to watch Howard try to assuage Jamie after not showing up for his school performance: it was forced and ineffectual.
And that was for starters.
The only time that he’s really in his element is when, at the end, he takes on the role of Turbo Man and impresses Jamie. Yes, the scene is utter nonsense and I died a little inside watching it, but at least Arnie was doing what he does best: being a superhero. That happens once.
(And even then, that sequence is marred by bargain-basement special effects reminiscent of ‘Robocop 3‘.)
Sinbad isn’t any better: he lacks charisma and isn’t at all funny. For instance, his solo rant, when he first meets Howard, comes off as desperate, not hilarious. The only people worth seeing here are Phil Hartman (who’s perfectly slimy) and, surprisingly enough, Jake Lloyd.
Yes, Jake Lloyd.
He’s actually good here. (Looks like it’s George Lucas who sucked, not him, after all…)
Because, yes, this is supposed to be a kids’ movie, let’s remember – though it offers questionable values: Howard vents his frustration by trashing a Turbo Man display, gets a reindeer drunk, takes a swig from Myron’s flask, and even breaks into Ted’s house to steal a toy!
‘Jingle All the Way’ is capitalism unfurled. Though, apparently, it’s supposed to be satirical, it actually feels like a pageant to consumerism: everything can be solved with toys, by buying crap – no matter the cost. There’s no real discussion of choices, values and consequences.
It’s a slightly soul-sucking film, really.
By its big finale, I didn’t care anymore; I just watched passively, waiting for it to end. It’s not a horrible film, per se, but it’s exactly the kind of tripe that Hollywood hammers out for mass consumption, devoid of the qualities that have made the classics resonate and endure.
The magic of Christmas is nowhere to be found here.
Date of viewing: November 17, 2017