Geek of the Day
Barry the Bachelor
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It's officially after Thanksgiving, which means that my [insert preferred Winter holiday celebration] season has officially begun both in my real life and here at MCFTR. And while it's hard to resist ripping in to the candy canes and egg nog early considering the onslaught of Christmas advertising that begins the day after Halloween, I try hard to wait until after the turkey is put away.
This weekend, our tree went up, decorations got placed around the house, and presents were wrapped. So to enjoy my evening last night, I opened up a bottle of Pepsi Holiday Spice and kicked my feet up for a viewing of JINGLE ALL THE WAY. Then I realized that Pepsi Holiday Spice is just Pepsi's way of making something that tastes like Coca-Cola. Not really much 'spice' to it, and nothing that really screams out 'holiday' either. In other words, it wasn't really all that memorable.
Neither, unfortunately, was JINGLE ALL THE WAY, 1996's cinematic ode to capatilistic excess thinly veiled as a Christmas movie starring the future Governor of Collie-fornia. This film is really the anti-Christmas movie, which would be perfectly acceptable if that's what it were shooting for. Unfortunately, this is a movie that thinks it's all about those tidings of comfort and joy but is really just an advocate for parents buying the love of their kids.
Of course, JINGLE ALL THE WAY stars the epitome of baseball and apple pie america, Arnold Schwarzenegger. And despite the fact that Arnie makes no effort to cover his thick Austrian accent, he still plays a guy by the name of Howard 'Howie' Langston. Just screams of Eastern Europe, don't it? Anyway, as the movie begins, Howard is in the process of missing his son Jamie's karate class because he's running late from work. He gets stuck in traffic and winds up on the bad side of a police officer (the first of many encounters with said cop) and misses the class altogether. When Howard arrives home, Jamie is pissed and won't talk to him. The kid is drawing a picture of his family, which is simple but way too clean and well-orchestrated to be done by an six-year-old, unlesss that six-year-old is gonna grow up to be the baddest man in the galaxy one day. And, in case you haven't picked up on it yet, young Jamie is played by Jake Lloyd, who you may remember from his job of fucking up a perfectly good STAR WARS prequel.
Howard wants to make it up to Jamie for missing the class, so Jamie tells dad that he can redeem himself by buying him a Turboman action figure. This kid lives and breathes Turboman. Turboman breakfast cereal, Turboman bed sheets, Turboman pajamas, the whole nine yards. Turboman is this film's version of the Cabbage Patch Kid. Or Tickle Me Elmo. Or Furby. Or any other toy that has been gobbled up by frantic parents so that their kid won't be the only one in town to not have some stupid hunk of plastic that will fade from their memory by the next yuletide season. Of course, this becomes the central plot point of JINGLE ALL THE WAY. Of course, this plot worked in 1996, but could never work nowadays, because as soon as Arnie hit a store looking for the thing, some wiseacre would just give him this sage advice: Dude, just go on eBay!
But Howard is bound and determined to find this toy at retail, so he lines up at the local toy store. It's bad enough that he's worked to death at the local mattress store and that his obnoxious neighbor is trying to move in on his wife, but now he's got to track down the hottest toy in history at the eleventh hour. While he's in line, he runs into a guy named Myron, who joins Seinfeld's Newman in a long line of characters designed to denigrate the postal service. Myron, played by Sinbad, thinks Turboman is actually called "Turtleman" and waxes about toy company conspiracy theories. He also turns out to be a major thorn in Howard's side in their collective quests to procure the elusive figure.
When both guys come up short in their quest to grab a Turboman figure, Howard gets a tip that a short woman that talks like Lisa Simpson just bought the last toy from layaway. He stops the lady on the street to acquire the contents of her bag. He pays her three times its value, but it turns out to be the wrong toy. It's Booster, Turboman's trusty tiger sidekick. However, Governator trashes the thing. What the hell? I mean, it ain't Turboman, but it's part of the collection. At least hang on to it so you can give Turboman an accessory when you finally procure the thing.
After another failed attempt to get his hands on the toy at the local mall which culminates in a chase sequence through a kiddie jungle gym and ends in the ball crawl, Howard runs in to a crooked Santa and Elf played by Jim Belushi and Kramer's diminuitive pal Mickey. They take him to a warehouse full of black-market Saint Nicks, who are manufacturing bootlegged versions of all sorts of hot toys. Arnie finally gets a chance to show off his muscle here, as he gets involved in a Santa scuffle which pits him against a mega-Santa (played by WWE's own Big Show, Paul Wight) and a Santa-Fu master, complete with peppermint-stick nunchuks.
Howard escapes the scuffle, but not before blowing three hundred dollars on a bogus Turboman toy (It'd fit quite nicely on our Flea Market Bootlegs articles here at MCFTR.) He attempts to win the thing from a radio DJ (poor Martin Mull...) but Myron interferes again and hilarity ensues. With his blood still boiling from his failed attempts to get his hands on the toy, and after witnessing his neighbor Ted put his grubby hands all over the family's Christmas traditions, Howard snaps and attempts to steal Ted's own Turboman figure from beneath his tree. Angry Reindeer action occurs, and the whole thing blows up in the Governator's face. Now he has a long way to go to redeem himself in the eyes of his family.
But by the power of a series of carefully-crafted coincidences, Howard winds up being shoved into a Turboman costume just in time for the annual Christmas Eve parade that Jamie will be attending. He gets to hang out with Booger dressed as Booster, and gets to choose some random lucky kid out of the audience to receive this elusive holy grail of action figures. Gee, I wonder who he'll pick? And after a scene that seems much funnier in retrospect where Howard begins to tell Jamie that "I am your Father" only to be thwarted by Myron again, the movie begins to descend to new levels of suckitude.
Howard atually becomes Turboman. No, not just a guy wearing a mocked-up rubber suit, but a guy dressed up in a suit that has all of the superhero functions that the character in the cartoon would have. The jet pack works, the projectiles fire, the magic boomerang thingy does its trick as well. It's almost as if the filmmakers got this far and then decided that they hadn't yet insulted our intelligence to a sufficient level, so they threw this ridiculous sequence in to top the whole thing off. Oh, and it gets worse. After Turboman rescues Jamie from the dastardly Myron, the kid doesn't even recognize him as his own dad, despite the unshielded face and thick ass Austrian accent. Fine, you say. He's a little kid. Ben didn't recognize that it was his dad Ross dressed as the Holiday Armadillo in that one episode of Friends, so we'll let it slide. But even Howard's wife misses this ridiculously obvious observation. I mean, how do you not recognize Arnold Goddamn Schwarzenegger, red suit or no red suit?
So after everything is all hunky-dory and the kid has his toy, the movie tries to shift gears by making Jamie have a little epiphany about how he doesn't need the toy to be happy. But it's not the fact that Daddy practically broke his neck to make the tyke happy that causes the epiphany. Nope. It's the fact that Jamie thinks his dad is the real Turboman, so he doesn't need the toy anymore. In other words, he trades in his one materialistic trophy for a bigger, more interactive version. After all, if Jamie were really all that concerned with dad's attention the whole time, he would have mentioned it to begin with.
So while on the surface, it seems like the movie is preaching this positive message about family and togetherness, it's really all about getting the biggest and best toy of them all. Think I'm making too much of this? Think I'm being too cynical? Pay attention to the very last moment of the film. You might think it's played for comedy, but nothing else in the movie has been funny so far, so why would they start at the end?
So, in the end, it's kind of like the perfect Christmas movie for a large chunk of the population that think that the spirit of Christmas is making people happy with the biggest and best presents. If it only knew that was its purpose, JINGLE ALL THE WAY might actually be a really smart film. But as it stands, it's about two steps below SANTA CLAUS: THE MOVIE on a list of relevant holiday flicks.
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