Judge David Johnson will refuse to give his children the hottest toy of the holiday season. Socks and travel-sized toothpaste is far more practical.
This is why the terrorists hate us.
Arnold Scwarzenegger's (Commando) holiday slapstick comedy is resurrected for an extended edition that I'm not sure anyone was asking for.
Facts of the Case
Howard Langston (Schwarzenegger) is a crappy father who's disappointed his irritating son Jamie (Jake Lloyd, Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace) one too many times. After Howard fails to show for Jamie's karate match, he's stricken with guilt. To win back his son's affection and salvage his fatherhood, Howard sojourns to retrieve the hottest toy in the country: Turboman.
Thanks to his procrastination/apathy, he's only got the duration of Christmas Eve to track down the elusive action figure. But he also has competition. Besides the ravenous mobs of fellow slacker parents, a deranged mailman (Sinbad) is also after Turboman and is willing to go to ridiculous lengths to get one for his son.
In the end, only one will emerge with the coveted doll and many, many display stands will be knocked over and—what the hell?!—Arnold Schwarzenegger will punch a reindeer in the face.
Thankfully I missed out on this aneurism of a children's film when it was first unleashed on the unsuspecting public over 10 years ago. But such is the peril of DVD reviewing: movies that one has managed to dodge tend to come back to haunt again. So here I am with a copy of Jingle All the Way the "Family Fun" edition and what can I tell you, the only fun the family will have with this disc is to use it in some kind of glitter and glue craft.
A migraine from start to finish, this consumerism-gone-wild saga offends not because of its pathetic message of buying your spoiled brat's love and stomping on the faces of strangers to do it, but because of its entertainment worth, which, on the scale of Measuring Amusement Value Through Hyperbolic Metaphors, falls at about the "Freebasing Splenda Packets" level. Loud, kinetic and full of stuff breaking, Jingle All the Way continues to throttle up on the hectic meter until the bizarre and overwhelming finale. This last segment, when Howard starts flying around on a jetpack (?!) and the Sinbad-postman threatens the life of a child over the action figure, is so utterly surreal and out of place with the film's established universe there's no way to label it but a movie-killer. Not that we we're talking Oscar contender for the first 70 minutes, but the climax goes so over the top, the whole thing becomes a weird live-action cartoon and kills the entire experience.
Schwarzenegger has a good time running around screaming and throwing his body into toy racks and pedestrians and police officer (all consequence-free apparently), and though he boasts his typical on-screen charisma, his comic delivery skills are fairly limited. Phil Hartman does the sleazy next-door neighbor convincingly, Jake Lloyd is annoying even before his days of podracing, and there's this guy named Sinbad who used to be pretty popular in the '90s. I wonder what happened to that guy…
The one thing I do remember about this film's release was the tie-in to a real Turboman action figure. That would be a rootin'-tootin' transparent attempt at drumming up buzz for a boring action figure that no one cares about, and that has always left a sour taste in my mouth; looking at it that way, it's difficult no to see Jingle All the Way as anything other than a feature-length commercial for the wannabe next Tickle-Me-Elmo.
The release contains both the theatrical and "extend director's cut" (as it's written on the disc case), with only three minute so of additional footage separating the two. Wow. The film looks good, though, in both variations. The 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen is clean and colorful and the 5.1 audio track will drum that generic "adventurous kids" score into your frontal lobe mercilessly. Extras: two set-top games, a making-of featurette, a weird segment interviewing kids about who they would like to be as superheroes, and moderately funny True Hollywood Story-like parody of Turboman's career.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Jingle All the Way isn't a total waste of time. Some moments were in fact funny. I liked the action movie send-up with Arnold taking on a legion of Santa Clauses, the relentless abuse taken by Turboman's hapless sidekick Booster and, the funniest part of all (inadvertent, alas), the failure Howard's wife and son to recognize him in his Turboman costume despite that somewhat noticeable thick Austian accent.
Hey maybe the whole thing is clever satire and I'm too dense to pick it up. Nah, doubt it. Jingle All the Way is loud and infantile and unfunny.
Jingle All the Way out of my DVD collection.
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