The ‘So Bad It’s Good’ Christmas Film

Jingle All The Way (1996)

Putting Arnold Schwarzenegger and Christmas comedy together seems like a match made hell.

Lets face it; the Austrian Oak’s ventures into comedy/family films have been very hit and miss.

When it works (Kindergarten Cop), it really works. When it bombs (Junior), it really bombs.

Good, bad or indifferent, there’s no denying Arnie’s charm, enthusiasm, effort and overall likeability always come through on screen – it’s just impossible not to like him.

But is that enough to get you though Jingle All The Way? Well… Just about.

Schwarzenegger stars as Howard Langston (the most un-Arnie character name ever), a neglectful, workaholic father who promises his son, Jamie, played by Jake Lloyd (yes, THAT Jake Lloyd), that he will get a Turbo-Man doll for Christmas after missing his karate class graduation.

Flash-forward to Christmas Eve and what has Howard forgotten? Oops! Left with one day to get his hands on the year’s hottest selling toy, can he keep his promise and find one before it’s too late?

As ideas go for a festive film, it’s a great premise; especially considering it was released at a time when it was all about the hot new toy every festive season: Tracy Island, Teletubbies, Barbie, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, etc.

Every Christmas Eve you’d see that panic stricken parent looking in vain for the last Buzz Lightyear to avoid the tears and tantrums. Still, it’s good to know that kind of thing doesn’t happen nowadays, right?

The film looks nice and definitely evokes that festive spirit, as well as capturing the chaos of a last minute shopping trip. However, considering the simplicity of the story, it’s extremely cluttered with too many characters and subplots from mail bombs to Arnie flying round the city on a rocket pack.

Amongst its many flaws we have Sinbad (remember him? No?) as a tightly wound postman on the same mission as Arnie. Sadly much of the film centres on these two hamming it up and trying to outdo each other in their search, which isn’t a bad subplot to include, but Arnie needs someone better to work off as Sinbad tries way too hard, making any joke seem forced.

The rest of the cast do an average job at best, with the only exception being Phil Hartman’s turn as Ted, the slimy single-father-next-door with an eye on Arnie’s missus, Liz (Rita Wilson), but similar to Schwarzenegger, Hartman is naturally likeable and casting him as the man-you-love-to-hate was a no-brainer.

JATW’s biggest problem is the ending. It goes overboard into the realms of stupidity and outright insanity, almost verging on being an outright insult as Arnie and Sinbad play out a poor-mans version of the Power Rangers.

Throw in a tacked-on family values message, contradicting the previous 80-odd-minutes you’ve just sat through and you’re done.

Looking at the JATW objectively, it is not a great film. It’s probably not even an average film, but Christmas is a time you can turn a blind eye and be more forgiving, so just shut your brain off and class it under guilty pleasures.

JATW celebrated, for lack of a better word, its 20th anniversary back in November, but unlike a fine wine, it hasn’t aged well. But in saying that, maybe it’s more like mulled wine; you can enjoy it at Christmas…

 

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