I haven't done anything to advance the Arnold Project for more than a year now. As a penance (gift-hungry children must do penance to get out of the Naughty list by Christmas, right?), it's more than fitting to take a look at the one movie often held as the very worst Arnold ever did: 1996's holiday classic Jingle All The Way!
Jingle All The Way, directed by Brian Levant, comes from the notorious period in Arnold Schwarzenegger's career when he tried his hand in playing the everyman in several family movies and comedies. And since Arnold isn't as much an actor as a presence, this was a horrible idea to begin with. He is as ordinary as a purple hippo dressed as Batman using the subway.
In this one, Arnold "plays" Howard Langston, a career dad who's never there for his son Jamie (Jake Lloyd, the worst actor ever to play Darth Vader). When Howard misses his son's important karate practice, he has to resort to making thin promises to win him back. In this case, he promises to get Jamie an action figure based on his favorite television super hero, Turbo Man, for Christmas.
|The Finnish title for this film translates as "My Father is Turbo Man". FYI.|
But as it happens, he doesn't remember the whole thing until Christmas Eve. He rushes to get the doll, even though he had promised his family to take them to the annual Christmas Parade. While Howard is gone, his sleazy next-door neighbor Ted (Phil Hartman) moves in to woo his wife Liz (Rita Wilson). Howard finds almost every departement store cleared out, since the action figure has been a major hit. Along with another desperate dad, Myron Larabee (Sinbad), they find a drastic measure after another to get their claws on the figure. But their quarreling and fighting over it foils the plan for the both of them again and again.
This is a very zaccharine-coated, plastic Hollywood dreck at its worse. But even though it's constantly annoying, it is also quite entertaining. Phil Hartman (RIP) could do funny in his sleep, and his considerable talents keep any scenes with Ted afloat, even if he hams it up. At least hartman seems like he's having fun. Arnold grunts and moans his way through. It is always fun to see Arnold in pain, and there's plenty of comical violence to go around here.
This is a film where there's two scenes where Arnold punches a midget so hard he flies all across the room. Arnold also fights mall santas, super villains, and punches Sinbad plenty of times. If he'd also kick Jake Lloyd's ass in some point then this parade of Arnold vs. considerably weaker opponents would be perfect. (He also fights a giant Super Santa played by WWE wrestler Big Show) The money shot is when he knocks out a reindeer. In the next scene he's feeding his neighbor's hot-tempered, certainly dangerous reindeer some beer. Y'know, because alcohol certainly soothes the wild soul.
At some point during the writing process of the movie the point must have been satirizing the commercialization of Christmas. The most astonishing thing, and simultaneously the most interesting thing about the film in general, is how the final product totally dismisses this idea. So while the film features adults fighting tooth-and-nail over the possession of a mass-produced, branded toy, the film doesn't give any alternative as to why they shouldn't be doing this. Instead, Howard feels remorse as to not have been a well enough father to spend his money on corporate Christmas presents earlier.
The measure of a good father in the movie is how good one keeps his promise. So, when one promises to give a certain branded, mass-produced action figure for Christmas, nothing else will suffice. So, in other words, if the child doesn't get exactly what he wants, it's the fault of the parents and they should feel guilty. I have a feeling Howard's kid will grow up to be kind of an asshole.
I detest many American Christmas movies, because they give such a plastic, saccharine, disgustingly commercial coating to a holiday that should be about love. The message of love is always ham-fistedly put to the film in the most obvious way possible, when it's clear that the shiny lights and wacky, easily sellable hijinks are what's the emphasis.
The oddity of the film makes it certainly watchable, and ironically funny as well. I'm not sure if I'd recommend it for anyone, but it's certainly in the same league as Batman & Robin as Arnold movies so terrible you have to see them to understand how tasteless film entertainment can be.
★ or ★★★★★
Merry Christmas from The Last Movieblog! Stay Classy!