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MOVIE INFO

Director:
Brian Levant
Cast:
Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sinbad, Phil Hartman, Rita Wilson, Robert Conrad, Martin Mull, Jake Lloyd, James Belushi
Writing Credits:
Randy Kornfield

Tagline:
Two Dads, One Toy, No Prisoners.

Synopsis:
Arnold Schwarzenegger stars in this hilarious holiday comedy as a father desperate to buy that must-have Christmas toy during a frantic last-minute shopping spree on Christmas Eve.

Howard Langston (Schwarzenegger) has promised his young son a Turbo Man action figure for Christmas, unaware it's the season's hottest-selling toy. And so begins a frenzied quest that pits Howard against a stressed-out mailman (Sinbad), a sleazy Santa impersonator (James Belushi) and every other harried parent in town, in "the best holiday family film in years." (Don Stotter, Entertainment Time-Out)

Box Office:
Budget
$60 million.
Opening Weekend
$12.112 million on 2401 screens.
Domestic Gross
$60.573 million.

MPAA:
Rated PG

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
Fullscreen 1.33:1
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English Dolby 2.0
French Dolby 2.0
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
Closed-captioned

Runtime: 89 min.
Price: $14.98
Release Date: 10/12/2004

Bonus:
• Biographies
• Trailer


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RELATED REVIEWS


Jingle All The Way (1996)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 22, 2004)

In 1996’s Jingle All the Way, Arnold Schwarzenegger attempted to make himself lovable. He’d taken steps in that direction with prior comedies like Twins and Kindergarten Cop, but Jingle actually tried to cast the Austrian beefcake as an ordinary dad.

Did it work? Yes and no. The movie took in $60 million, a figure that kept it from “flop” territory. However, that total seemed pretty mediocre for a big-budget holiday release from a major star, so Jingle fell in that nebulous territory between hit and bomb.

Which is probably where it belonged. Jingle could have been worse, but it also could have been a much more clever and insightful examination of the panic that accompanies the holidays.

Workaholic Howard Langston (Schwarzenegger) never seems to have enough time for his young son Jamie (Jake Lloyd) despite pleas from wife Liz (Rita Wilson). When Howard misses a ceremony at which Jamie gets his purple belt in karate, he promises the boy he’ll do anything to make it up to him. Jamie pleas for a TurboMan action figure as a Christmas present, and Howard swears he’ll deliver the goods.

This shouldn’t be a problem since Liz told him to pick up one weeks earlier. Predictably, however, Howard forgot to do so, which leaves him without the toy on the day before Christmas. Howard figures it’ll be no problem to grab one, but TurboMan is the hottest toy of the year, which makes it virtually impossible for him to find.

During his hunt, Howard meets disgruntled postal employee Myron Larabee (Sinbad), another busy dad who didn’t get his shopping done earlier. Myron needs a TurboMan for his own son, which sets up the pair as rivals. Eventually Myron offers a truce to make the pair partners, but Howard prefers to go it alone. This bothers Myron and makes sure they’ll go against each other the rest of the movie, though the focus consistently remains on Howard’s travails.

I can still remember the near-riots that accompanied parental searches for Cabbage Patch Kids back in the early Eighties, and other toys have inspired similar frenzies. This took Jingle into territory ripe for comedy, but the film largely fails to fulfill its potential.

That’s partly because it can’t quite decide its focus. On one hand, Jingle engages in a lot of broad slapstick connected to holiday themes. We see many battles among shoppers over the action figure, and we even get a massive battle that takes place in a warehouse filled with faux Santas. Half the movie acts like a huge cartoon.

On the other hand, Jingle also wants to connect with the usual holiday sentiment. It’s rare to find a Christmas movie without various attempts at touching, emotional elements, and Howard’s strained relationship with young Jamie causes those. It’s all totally obvious where this will go, as everyone should expect a sappy conclusion that makes everything happy and joyful among the family.

At its heart, Jingle presents a rather cynical view of parental responsibilities. Clearly Howard’s neglected his family for quite some time, but we’re meant to believe that if he just tosses a toy his boy’s way, he’ll prove himself as a caring father. Granted, I see that the toy acts as a symbol; it’s Howard’s last chance to prove that he can follow through on his promises. But still, it seems cheap that all his transgressions will become forgiven just because he delivers a crummy action figure.

Maybe it’s too much to expect that a light holiday comedy will engage in greater depth than that, though the classic A Christmas Story manages to do so. The relationship between that flick’s Ralphie and his Old Man seems vastly more realistic than the interactions between Howard and Jamie. That’s partially because the BB gun for which Ralphie lusts isn’t the whole point of the flick; despite the Old Man’s crustiness, we know he cares for his kids with or without a present. Howard doesn’t enjoy such a benefit of the doubt, which makes his necessary gift a tacky gesture.

This makes Jingle mostly an exploration of the inevitable with a very predictable storyline. It goes out of its way to put Howard in many wacky circumstances, all so he can eventually redeem himself as a good dad. Most of this exists as little more that an excuse for plenty of wild shenanigans, and the film awkwardly blends broad comedy and mushy sentiment.

I’m also not sure who thought it’d be a good idea to cast Schwarzenegger as an average suburban father. On what planet does he make sense in this role? At least the presence of Sinbad ensures that he’s not the worst actor in the cast. The has-been comedian delivers such an over-the-top performance that he makes Schwarzenegger look like a study in realism. Neither shows much of a comedic connection, though they don’t get much of a chance to do so; the film only sporadically uses Myron as a comedic foil, so he doesn’t pop up very frequently.

Occasionally, Jingle All the Way manages some minor humor, such as the scene with the seedy Santas. It also enjoys a pretty good supporting cast with talents like Phil Hartman and Rita Wilson in tow. Nonetheless, it focuses its energy on cheap humor and easy sentiment, which makes it both sappy and unfunny much of the time. Add to that an idiotic and unrealistic ending and Jingle doesn’t offer much entertainment.

End credits alert: stick it out through the final title crawl for a cute concluding sequence.


The DVD Grades: Picture B/ Audio B-/ Bonus D-

Jingle All the Way appears in both an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 and in a fullscreen version on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the widescreen image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Only the letterboxed picture was reviewed for this article. While the image generally seemed good, a few nagging issues caused it to fall short of greatness.

Sharpness offered a slightly mixed bag. Most of the movie came across as accurate and distinctive, but some exceptions occurred. At times, the film seemed mildly ill-defined, particularly in wide shots. The softness didn’t appear heavy, but it created some minor distractions. I discerned no moiré effects or jagged edges, but edge enhancement popped up at times. Print flaws occasionally manifested themselves via some specks and grit, but these remained fairly infrequent. Grain looked a bit heavy at times, though.

Across the board, the film’s colors seemed solid. As one might expect from a Christmas story, the flick displayed a broad and varied palette, and the DVD replicated these tones in a dynamic and vibrant manner. Black levels were adequately deep and rich, and shadow detail was appropriately clear but not excessively opaque. No significant problems marred Jingle, but enough small concerns popped up to knock my grade down to a “B”.

Comedies don’t usually provide much in the audio department, and the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Jingle All the Way fell into line with expectations. The soundfield seemed heavily oriented toward the front, but it seemed to be fairly engaging nonetheless. The forward channels presented a reasonably clean and engaging atmosphere, as the audio created a believable sound space. The music showed good stereo presence, and elements moved smoothly across the forward spectrum as they blended together neatly. Surround usage appeared fairly minor. For the most part, the rear speakers provided little more than reinforcement of the forward image. A few shots used the surrounds more actively, like during the opening episode of TurboMan and the fight at the end, but those occasions occurred infrequently.

Audio quality appeared fine. Speech remained natural and concise, with no signs of edginess or problems connected to intelligibility. Music showed nice range and clarity, and the bass response demonstrated a reasonably solid punch, though some disappointments occurred; for example, during the Santa fight, the big Santa’s foreboding footsteps lacked much presence. Effects were bright and accurate, and they also showed good depth when appropriate. Nothing about the soundtrack stood out as exceptional, but the mix seemed decent for this sort of flick.

Only minor extras showed up in this package. In addition to the movie’s trailer, we get a Cast listing. It presents brief biographies for actors Arnold Schwarzenegger, Phil Hartman and Sinbad.

I suppose its creators hoped that Jingle All the Way would become a holiday classic. Instead, it turned into little more than a footnote on Arnold Schwarzenegger’s résumé. The movie presents the occasional laugh, but a muddled story and too much easy emotion drags it down to the level of impotent tripe. The DVD features generally positive picture and audio but includes no substantial extras. With a list price below $15, Jingle offers cheap Christmas entertainment but it’s not satisfying at any cost.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.6875 Stars Number of Votes: 16
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32:
11:
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