Now here's something new to Judge Dennis Prince: A lump of Blu coal.
It's turbo time!
Jingle All the Way came along in the wake of the seasonal slapstick formula set by 1990's unexpectedly popular Home Alone. While there was a certain sort of cuteness in young McCauley Culkin getting the bead on two holiday plunderers, the slapstick here comes off as merely heavy handed and unrepentantly brutal. Intended to be an admonition of sorts to an American culture that fought tooth and nail—quite literally—for some coveted kids' toy at Christmastime, it doesn't play well as a comedy because, frankly, the truth on display here isn't very flattering—nor is it funny. What results then, likely made less tolerable by an increasingly hyper-sensitized culture, is a mess of a movie that unceremoniously kicks Christmas right in its jingle bells.
Howard Langston (Arnold Schwarzenegger, Kindergarten Cop) is the work-minded dad who gives his all for his business yet leaves nothing to take home to his young son, Jesse (Jake Lloyd, Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace), nor his frustrated wife, Liz (Rita Wilson, That Thing You Do!). Constantly not at attendance to Jesse's important events—like promotion at his karate class—Howard is treading emotional thin ice with his 8-year-old son. There is a remedy however: a new Turbo Man action figure for Christmas would settle the score, it being this year's impossible-to-find grail gift. Characteristically, the insensitive Howard has waited until Christmas Eve to get the toy and now must go to extreme odds to fulfill his son's holiday wish. Butting up against an unstable postal carrier, Myron Larabee (Sinbad, First Kid), who's also desperate for the toy, the two navigate the consumer jungle to score the coveted prize.
Despite the obvious formula at work here, Jingle All the Way simply doesn't mix well. Schwarzenegger can be comedically competent at times but this isn't one of them. Where he effectively used restraint in his role in the superior Kindergarten Cop, here he goes full boar and simply comes off as obnoxious, both in character as well as stature. Sinbad, a usually dependable comedian himself, is saddled with the postal carrier character that is far too overt to be amusing. Add the overdone slapstick and downright vapid soul required for success in this setting and the film simply wears itself out trying to amuse. And, as elusive as the Turbo Man action figure is, so too is any genuine entertainment in this holiday misfire.
The 1080p AVC-encoded transfer on this new Blu-ray disc looks good but certainly not great. The image is a bit soft when compared to other HD-enhanced presentations, details never quite popping despite the technology's potential. Color rendering deserves applause, however, as a sea of red-cloaked Santas remains visually controlled without any over-saturation or bleeding. Even so, because the image lacks the finely rendered quality we've come to expect of the format, it's difficult to see a significant difference between this and a nicely upscaled (and less expensive) standard definition DVD edition. If anything's "turbo" about the disc, however, it's the DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 track, that which roars into life at the opening mock Turbo Man adventure scenes. From there, every time tires squeal, the crowd collides, or another end cap display is sent flying, the track booms vibrantly (and your low-end will probably be left panting when it's all over). Still, given the unsatisfying content of the film, it's hardly reason enough to add this one to your shopping list. And, extras are quite trim, beginning with The Making of a Hero, the first of three featurettes. This one's your typical marketing fluff that plays far too long at 15 minutes. Next up are two brief endeavors, Super Kids (where kids talk about what they like in a super hero) and Turbo Man Behind the Mask (a self-congratulatory look at the purported Turbo-mania).
As a final note, it's curious that Fox is promoting this as a "Family Fun Edition" since, by its content, cynical disposition, and PG rating, this is hardly a film to queue up for the little ones.
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