Take a survey of what the best Christmas movies of all time are and you’ll get pretty similar lists across the board. It’s a Wonderful Life, A Christmas Story, Christmas Vacation, Home Alone, various adaptations of A Christmas Carol
There’s one movie that seems to get left off of everyone’s list, however. And that movie is Jingle All the Way.
I know you’re skeptical, but hear me out. People are understandably quick to write off any movie with Sinbad playing a major role.
Yikes. But I don’t think enough people gave Jingle All the Way a chance. Here’s the basic plot: Arnold Schwarzenegger plays Howard Langston, an average Austrian immigrant who works hard running a business to put bread on the table but who also tends to neglect his fatherly duties when it comes to his son, Jamie. Caught up in his work, Howard puts off buying Jamie the one thing he wants for Christmas- a Turboman action figure- until Christmas Eve. Unfortunately for Howard, Turboman happens to be the hot toy of the Christmas season. Determined to find a Turboman and win back the admiration and affection of Jamie, Howard embarks on a hilarious adventure that is fun for the whole family. Supporting cast includes Sinbad as Myron Larabee, a down-on-his-luck mailman also searching for a Turboman. There’s also Phil Hartman, who turns in an excellent performance as Ted Maltin, the next-door neighbor with designs on Howard’s wife.
Critics panned Jingle All the Way as formulaic and predictable. But name me a Christmas movie that isn’t “formulaic” and predictable. That’s what we like about Christmas movies. We watch them over and over again every December because we are too drunk on egg nog to do anything elsethey all have the same elements. Well Jingle All the Way has them too:
- Slapstick comedy
- Someone learning his lesson about what the holidays are all about
Ok, only Jingle All the Way has jetpacks, but really more Christmas movies should. It also has great Arnold Soundboard material. How unappreciated is Jingle All the Way? According to my cable guide it is not even being shown on basic cable this Christmas weekend. (It is being shown on HBO Comedy on Christmas Eve at 8 pm. Set your DVRs).
Some critics actually praised Jingle All the Way for its “critique” of the materialistic nature of modern Christmas. I wouldn’t go that far. If anything this movie celebrates materialism. There is a scene where, after a few major setbacks, Howard and Myron commiserate over a drink. Howard describes a past Christmas where he built Jamie a tree-house with his bare hands and quickly became his son’s hero. Howard wonders what went wrong since then. Myron tells how, when he was Jamie’s age, his father didn’t get him the present he had his heart set on. The resulting disappointment set him on the path that lead to the broken man he is today. Taken aback by a vision of his son becoming as pathetic as Myron, Howard sets out again to find a Turboman doll. So in that crucial moment we see Howard realizing he can’t make his son happy (and successful in life) on his own—he has to buy him the mass-produced toy that millions of other fathers have bought their sons. So I don’t think it is fair to call it a “critique” of Christmas, but maybe you could say that Jingle All the Way is one of the few movies that is honest about Christmas. And it has jetpacks.
I’m not arguing that TBS should air a 24 hour Jingle All the Way marathon. But the next time you are channel surfing and come across it, you should give it a chance instead of scoffing and continuing on to some stop-motion animation relic.