Arnold Schwarzenegger can do comedy but can he do Christmas? Jingle all the Way certainly hopes he can and to its credit, for the most part, Arnie pretty much pulls it off. And he doesn’t even really need to punch anyone in the face… well almost.
The film starts as many Christmas films have done before; busy father, obnoxious demanding son, nagging wife and far too many Christmas traditions and Christmas promises. All of this boils down to the simple premise that Arnie’s Howard Langston needs to get the most sought after toy of the year on Christmas Eve or doom his son’s future forever (no, seriously).
As the film takes this story and runs with it, you actually get a situation that many parents will have found themselves in. That panic buying, desperately trying to make Christmas perfect and having frustrating obstacles placed in your way. The way the film portrays the Christmas panic-buying, now more seen on Black Friday, is very funny and although extreme, it works while it is grounded.
To this end, the film also adds comedian Sinbad, playing postman Myron, who is also looking for the toy and begins a rivalry over the course of the movie with Arnie. As the film moves forward, the situations escalate and what begins as a very relatable movie starts to become bizarre, with a warehouse of dodgy Santas (that Arnie gets to dispatch in his traditional fashion), a bomb-threat and an angry reindeer.
In fact, Jingle all the Way feels like two different movies. The first half is a film about a desperate parent trying to find a toy on one of the busiest shopping days of the year and the second half is about a bizarre treasure hunt that gets weirder and more extreme as the finale begins to emerge. The first half is funny and clever in places, the second half is just a different, very silly and wacky film.
The kids will of course love the last third and it sort of makes sense with the way the film is headed that it would end the way it does but you can’t help wonder whether two different people were given two different halves of the script and just bolted them together without checking for any continuity in the theme. If you were ticking Christmas film boxes though, this one certainly fits the “cheesy” category and the ending is so sugary that it makes your skin crawl.
Overall, Jingle all the Way shows that Arnie can do Christmas, soppy and slapstick. It has a relatable idea that starts very well and very funny but soon descends into bizarre, cheesy silliness.
Rating – 3
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