So Bad It’s Good: ‘Jingle All the Way’ (1996)

So Bad It’s Good: ‘Jingle All the Way’ (1996)

Jingle All the Way (1996)
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sinbad, Phill Hartman, Jake Lloyd.
Director: Brian Levant
Plot: After letting down his son again, a workaholic father must find the hottest toy of the year in the space of 24 hours, despite it being guaranteed to be sold out everywhere.

Normally, So Bad it’s Good features films that are unintentionally funny; bad acting, ridiculous plots and poor production often contribute to accidental humour and create instant classics. Jingle All the Way is actually intended as a comedy, so if you laugh and enjoy the film, it’s easy to believe the film is doing it’s job. When you watch too many films, like myself, it becomes relatively easy  to spot when a film is actually trying to be funny and when it’s not. Jingle All the Way is one such film – Arnold Schwarzenegger is no comedian and with Jake Lloyd being the centre of all Star Wars fan’s hatred, only an amazing script with comedy geniuses behind the humour could make this film genuinely funny.

At the centre of Jingle All the Way is the Langston family: Howard Langston (Schwarzenegger) is growing ever distant with his family, his frequent work gets in the way of his family life, missing his son Jamie’s (Lloyd) achievements and threatening his marriage with his wife. After missing Jamie’s latest karate achievement, Howard promises to get his son whatever he wants for Christmas, giving him one last chance to redeem himself. Jamie wants nothing more than a Turbo Man action-figure for Christmas, it’s the hottest toy of the year and it will ultimately restore Jamie’s faith in his father. Howard thinks he’s saved Christmas for his family, until he realises… he hasn’t actually bought the toy for Jamie – we’ll just assume he expected his wife to have bought it, or that he simply forgot about it. Howard must now spend Christmas Eve finding somewhere that hasn’t sold out of the toy and then make it home in time to take his family to the annual Christmas parade. Along his journey he meets Myron Larabee (Sinbad) who is also hunting down the same toy for his son, but, as tensions rise, the competition between the two turns ugly.

Jingle All the Way is a fun Christmas film, it was a great Christmas movie to watch as a kid with its warm and feel-good vibe. A lot of the film is relatable to you as child with its materialistic ideology, the whole idea that all a child cares about for christmas is a plastic toy seemed so normal. As an adult it comes across as over the top and ridiculous, and in that sense you could really look upon Jingle All the Way as a shallow film that promotes values you really wouldn’t want to teach children. A common but unfair assumption, as the film doesn’t take itself too seriously; it’s intentionally over the top as it was intended to parody the Christmas rush for the Cabbage Patch dolls in the 1980s. While the film initially makes the Turbo Man doll the centre of Jamie’s lust for Christmas, his materialistic values eventually fizzle out and the film’s true meaning emerges. The Turbo Man is simply the cover story for Jamie’s frustration with his father for not showing love and interest in his family and not keeping promises. While the film may occasionally take itself seriously, Levant makes it clear that the film’s true intention not to promote materialism, but to mock it and show just how ridiculous it is. The film’s true agenda was to show that opening presents and enjoying the material side of Christmas means absolutely nothing to children if they don’t have a loving family to enjoy it with.

With that being said you might be thinking that the film really doesn’t sound too bad… but, aside from having a positive ideology, the only aspect that really makes Jingle All the Way watchable is just the fact that it’s Arnold Schwarzenegger trying to be funny. Schwarzenegger is naturally funny for all of the wrong reasons – it’s a different kind of humour watching him trying to be genuinely funny – but, as a whole, Jingle All the Way almost entirely fails to be funny. There are, of course, a few genuinely funny segments. A personal favourite of mine is between Howard and a police chief, where Howard is always in the wrong place at the wrong time and causes a different injury to the officer each time they encounter one another. The character who steals the show in terms of comedy however is Ted Maltin (Phil Hartman). Hartman plays the typical, ever-present, slimy neighbour who has everything the protagonist doesn’t. Hartman perfectly executes smug and arrogance in every aspect of his character, from how he speaks to even how he stands. Hartman plays the role so over the top, but it’s a type of character than cannot be pulled off unless it’s being done this way. We’ve all known someone like Ted: the smug, competitive ‘friend’ who has everything given to them. To see that type of character represented so perfectly actually makes Arnold Schwarzenegger’s character somewhat relatable, which is unheard of to say the least.

The rest of Jingle All the Way isn’t funny. The inclusion of Sinbad always baffled me; I didn’t find him funny as a kid and as an adult I find him not only unfunny, but painful to watch, as every attempt at humour just fails at even being remotely comical. The simple appeal of Jingle All the Way is Arnold Schwarzenegger and the fact that it’s a perfectly cheesy Christmas film for those who enjoy Christmas. It makes a mockery of materialism and promotes the right Christmas message, so while it’s not a completely awful film, it’s still bad enough to be enjoyed with a particular sense of humour.


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