Jingle All The Way is quite a horrid movie, there’s no doubt about it. Whereas many other Christmas movies have celebrated the good feeling and traditional cheer that can come along with it (as well as, let’s not forget, the darker aspects that can accompany the holiday), Jingle All The Way celebrates the materialism that has come to dominate the proceedings. Oh, there’s certainly a little bit in there about love and being unselfish but that’s almost an afterthought, simply there to justify the shallow shenanigans that pad out the premise of a father desperately trying to get his hands on THE must-have toy of the season for his son.
Arnold Schwarzenegger is the father who, in a standard family movie cliche, loves his family and makes a great life for them but is painted as a complete and utter heartless git because he spends far too much time working. He always misses important events and his son (Jake Lloyd) is starting to resent it. His wife (Rita Wilson) is none too pleased either. But all that could change if he keeps his promise, to get his son a Turbo-Man action figure and to be there at the big Christmas parade. But those Turbo-Man action figures are like gold dust and, to make matters worse, Arnie has to try and stay one step ahead of a slightly mad postal worker (played by Sinbad, remember when he could headline a family movie?) while also worrying about his wife and son being looked after by the perfect neighbour, Ted (Phil Hartman).
There are occasional, and I do mean occasional, moments in the movie that aren’t too bad. Arnie tries his best and has always been as willing to throw himself into comedy as he threw himself into the action genre. He’s certainly a big bonus, as is the sorely missed Phil Hartman. Robert Conrad is also good fun as an increasingly exasperated policeman. The rest of the cast, on the other hand, don’t get you onside. Rita Wilson is saddled with a forgettable role, Jake Lloyd is as bad here as he was when playing young Anakin Skywalker and Sinbad is just someone who I don’t really dislike but who I just don’t like all that much either. He’s okay in small doses but his fleeting moment of major fame in the 90s always bemused me. The only other person worth mentioning is James Belushi, stealing the show with a great cameo as a wheeling and dealing Santa Claus.
Brian Levant directs and seems to follow a few, simple rules. Keep things colourful, keep things loud and have Arnie hit things every once in a while. Arnie accidentally hits stuff. Arnie fights some vicious Santas. Arnie punches a reindeer. Yes, you read that right, this movie has Arnie punching a reindeer. But it’s okay because he’s just being driven mad by the stress of Christmas and the need to prove his love to his son by getting him the hottest toy in town.
The script by Randy Kornfield is pretty bad, few of the lines raise a smile and the emotional content is the sort of thing you can imagine being written by a pre-teen.
In fact, if it wasn’t for those game performances by Schwarzenegger, Conrad and Hartman, this movie would be unwatchable. As it stands, it’s barely tolerable but only watch it around the holiday season if you really, really can’t avoid it.
DIRECTOR: BRIAN LEVANT
WRITER: RANDY KORNFIELD
STARS: ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER, SINBAD, PHIL HARTMAN, RITA WILSON, ROBERT CONRAD, JAKE LLOYD, JAMES BELUSHI
RUNTIME: 94 MINS APPROX