Friday, December 26, 2014

Jingle All the Way (1996)

Well, Christmas has come and gone yet again, and I never did get around to reviewing a real Christmas movie in time. Damn it, just damn it – my own awful timing gets in the way yet again. What can I possibly do to make it up to you?

Director: Brian Levant
Starring: Arnold Schwarzennegger, Sinbad

No, I don't think this counts. I don't think anyone in their right mind would consider Jingle All the Way a feasible manner of making amends with someone – unless you're apologizing for not annoying the ever loving piss out of your worst enemies this holiday season.

Oh, okay. It isn't that bad. Is it? IS IT?!

We start this one off with a Power Rangers-esque TV show for kids that I'm sure was made under the influence of all the leftover crack cocaine the studio execs had left over from the 1980s. Seriously, the way this is shot and the speed at which the action moves are so blitzkrieg fast, there isn't any fucking room for a story to be told. You'd have to be high on sugar to find this enjoyable.

When did they give the Ewoks Power Rangers costumes for Halloween, and when can we take them away again?
I didn't know the Flash's loser brother finally conned his way into a TV series.

...which, I suppose, would describe the majority of little children in the 90s and early 2000s. I mean have you seen their breakfast cereals? You could probably swim in an ocean of pure sugar and still be less energized and strung out than if you ate a bowl of Cinammon Toast Crunch.

Anyway, our main characters are well-to-do upper middle class white people with no serious problems. The father, Howard, is played by the obvious choice for any Christmas movie, Arnold Schwarzenegger. Apparently the big crisis in this movie is him not coming to his kid's karate class on time and not buying his kid a pre-processed action figure because he spent all his time working in the office to pay the bills – what a fucking tragedy, I tell you. Why was I ever worried about all those starving orphans/Charles Dickens characters in the streets on Christmas morning huddled around fires trying to stay warm? Clearly these people have it worse.

I do love the scene where he's trying to get to the class on time. He's stopped by a cop for driving in the emergency lane, which could have killed or seriously injured any number of people in any number of ways. I just feel so bad that he got stopped by that mean old cop for that little detail.

"You could have killed someone waiting in this lane for medical or mechanical assistance!"
"But officer, I have to get to my son's karate show on time!"
"Oh, well in that're still a complete douche and should be arrested."

And then by the time he gets there, the place is cleared out and the janitor is mopping the floor:

"I don't know what happened, Mr. Schwarzenegger. The kids were so bad at karate, the parents just snatched them up and sprinted for home as soon as they could!"

Uh, how late DID Howard leave for that karate match? If he promised he'd be there on time and then got there THAT late, I highly doubt it was just the cop who held him up. Either he was way too far away to ever get there on time, or everyone just rocket-sped out of there, burning their heels on the hard linoleum floor, because the karate match was so bad.

Also, was it too much to ask for a scene of Jake Lloyd (who plays the son, Jamie) trying to break one of those wooden blocks in the karate match, failing horribly and breaking his hand? C'mon. Throw me at least that bone, movie.


At home, Howard gets a tongue-lashing from his wife because hey, him actually doing shit to pay the bills on time and support his family is a rotten thing to do. Plus, it's a Christmas movie – having a father who realistically balances work and family life at all would be stupid and inconsequential to the movie's poorly written plot.

Then he goes upstairs and talks to Jamie about how sorry he is, asking if he can make it up to Jamie in any way. After a bit of prodding, Jamie finally shouts that he wants a Turbo-Man action figure, which Howard promises him and fixes their little spat. I love this - “You can miss all my karate matches if you buy me that commercial piece of plastic! In fact, you can quit your job and be a deadbeat dad and never see us again if you buy it for me! That's how warped my sense of things being equal is!”

"I just may take you up on that last bit, son."

Later on we get some talk from the wife asking if he bought the toy for Jamie yet, to which Howard lies and says yes. Wait a minute – if they knew Jamie wanted this toy - and they had to, considering he watched that Turbo-Man show like an old lady watches televangelists - why didn't they buy it for him already? The dialogue establishes that it's near Christmas eve by now. You'd think they would have known their own son well enough to BUY him the fucking action figure BEFORE he had to tell his dad to get it as a way to make up for missing karate class!

Sigh. The next day we get Howard's manic trek to find that damn action figure before the end of the day so Jamie can someday pass on a similar soul-sucking corporate mindset to his own children and further the Ouroboros-like cycle of cynicism that American culture is becoming...oh, I'm sorry, wrong meeting. The meeting at the docks is tomorrow night. Tonight it's Christmas family movie time!

We get introduced to Sinbad somewhere in the movie's jittery mess of a story, playing Myron, a postal worker who I am sure needs therapy of some kind to undo whatever is wrong with him. Why would I say something so cruel? Well, look at this.

That's what he does immediately upon Howard striking up a conversation with him. Was he just waiting to unleash that tantrum on anyone who spoke to him, or does he just do it to everyone he speaks to? Either way, I'm scared as shit now.

The look on Schwarzenegger's face pretty much sums it up, yeah: "What did I do with my life to get here?"

This movie is like 84 minutes long, and takes up a shitload of its runtime with brainless slapstick in the stores as everyone in this city apparently waited until Christmas Eve to buy Turbo Man toys. Who actually bought these things in the first place if ALL THESE PEOPLE are stampeding at the gates to get them the day before Christmas? Did they just order a shockingly low number of them to begin with? What gives?

Oh well. Just throw in more scenes of people tripping over things set to overly jubilant music, that'll fix it!

In his natural environment.

If you can believe it, there's also a scene where Howard gets taken to an underground black market for toys where for some reason, despite everyone just working from there, they're all wearing Santa costumes. Yes, every one of them. Really not much for unique costuming, are you? Or is this just supposed to be some kind of Santa cult of sorts? Either answer is enough to send your brain cells leaping off a cliff in a mass-suicide attempt, so pick your own answer.

If you can believe that, well, the movie is about to really test your sanity with a fight scene between Howard and a bunch of these Santas. Yes, really.

Also throughout the movie, we get scenes of this other guy, Ted, a next door neighbor trying to put the moves on Howard's wife. He's so un-subtle about it, I'm surprised he doesn't just kidnap the wife and prompt Schwarzennegger to revert to his past life as an action star to save her.

If only...

But that doesn't happen. Instead we get some more slapstick, and a scene with Myron going on another improv rant in a bar in the middle of the day, this time raving about a toy he wanted as a kid. I give credit to Sinbad for trying to flesh out this ridiculously underwritten, sloppy script – as a lot of his lines were just made up on the spot by him while filming apparently – but seriously, this is as funny as a stubbed toe. The first time was pretty funny, but this really isn't.

Then through another overly long and stupidly complicated chain of events, Howard and Myron find their way to some radio station promising to give away a Turbo Man doll. When they find out the station doesn't have it, they end up destroying the place and getting the cops called on them. Myron, being a stand-up guy, pretends to have a bomb package to throw off the cops. I guess he's just banking on the fact that his face is so forgettable in a crowd that they can lose him and he won't ever be arrested for this.
Except, it turns out, when one of the packages he happened to have at random IS a bomb:

And next up on 'scenes you'd never see in a movie these days'...

I guess it was just one of those bombs that makes you look comedically frazzled, and doesn't seriously hurt you. Oh, well, those are okay then.

After a bunch more boring things happen, including Howard trying to steal a present from Ted's house and Howard's wife all-but-divorcing him, Howard ends up dressed in a Turbo Man outfit for the parade going on. He doesn't have a chance to explain that he isn't supposed to be there, because like all professional productions, they don't give him a chance to talk and instead just shove him into an outfit. You know, because that wouldn't create all sorts of potential problems in real life, right?

You know, I really can't see how, even in a fictional universe, ANYONE thought having that pink monstrosity would be a good idea in a story. I mean it looks like cotton candy vomit from a grizzly bear.

Oh, and Myron shows up as the Turbo Man villain, too, which is so stupid I don't even have words for it. Oh wait yes I do – it's absolutely insane that he would somehow come to the conclusion to dress up as that character on purpose just to get the doll they're giving away as a prize. Seriously, the brain cells are heading toward the cliffside like lemmings here. Someone stop the madness!

On the float, apparently no one stops to think that maybe the two guys fighting and screaming at each other in an intensely personal way ISN'T part of the stunt. Including when Jamie comes up and kicks Myron in the balls – I guess that part was part of the routine! I wonder if the parade people pay for the surgery that comes with ruptured testicles.

What a low blow. This kid is in for a good career as a cast member of the Bad Santa remake in a few years.

Also, apparently the parade people were able to get their hands on a rocket jetpack that can actually let Howard fly way up in the air with no protection or instruction. Another reason I'm really glad those idiots running the parade were SO DISCERNING with who they let wear that costume!

None of these images needed to be seen by mortal eyes.

After a climax that involves Myron chasing Jamie up to a roof top and almost killing him for the doll, we get our happy ending where Howard reunites with his family and all is good again. Myron, I assume, gets arrested and sent to jail for the numerous heinous crimes he's committed, the first and foremost of which is subjecting us to his performance in the movie. Ha ha ha! Man, I crack myself up.

So, yeah, this was completely insane. Nothing about it worked, from the scant runtime mostly taken up by over-long slapstick sequences, to the directing which was as boring and slack-jawed as it could get without any notion of pacing or comedic timing, to the plot which seemed to have been written by a group of monkeys on Ritalin and the acting, which was about as good as you'd expect from everything else in this – it's clear that not a lot of work was put into making any of this, despite the actors' best efforts.

While I like the idea this movie was trying to convey - a sort of satire of the rampant consumerism and rushing to get materialistic shallow Christmas gifts for children - the movie really just doesn't pull it off well, and instead comes off as stupid, rushed and thoughtless most of the time, with little wit or clever jokes.

But strangely, I don't really regret seeing it. Through all of its complete bonkers insanity on every level, the film reaches a sort of zen level of “so bad its good” schadenfreude. It really is fun to watch when you've got friends around who are eager to rip into it with you. For that, I'd say it's worth a watch. Plus, I did like it when I was a kid!

Don't tell anybody that last part, though. I have an image to uphold.

Oh, and merry Christmas and all that, yadda yadda. Until next year!

Images copyright of their original owners. I own none of them.