Last of the Monster Kids

Last of the Monster Kids
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Thursday, December 3, 2015

WHY DO I OWN THIS?: Jingle All the Way (1996)

Arnold Schwarzenegger was one of the earliest movie stars I could recognize. All of this is besides him being the biggest movie star in the world at the time. How couldn’t anyone recognize Arnold? He has a totally ridiculous name, an immediately recognizable accent, an iconic physique, and starred in films with hugely broad appeal. That last point is important. As a youngster, Schwarzenegger never let me down. I loved every movie of his I saw. Until I saw “Jingle All the Way.” It’s the first movie starring the Austrian Oak that I can recall disliking. That made me hate it even more. Despite the animosity I feel towards it, “Jingle All the Way” sits in my DVD collection. Once again, I must ask myself the titular question, one attuned to the festive holiday season. Why do I own this?

Howard Langston is a busy man. As the successful owner of a mattress distribution center, he spends many hours at the office. His son, Jaime, is beginning to notice that dad isn’t around very much. As Christmas approaches, the boy is continuously disappointed by his father’s inability to appear on time. As the holiday looms, Howard sees a chance to regain his son’s love. All Jaime wants for Christmas is a Turbo Man, the hottest toy of the season. Unlucky for Howard, he waits until Christmas Eve to get the toy, when all the stores are sold out. Now, he has to set out on a crazy trip to save his son’s holiday.

Arnold Schwarzenegger had starred in goofy comedies before. Since his amiable charm is as big as his biceps, Arnold was able to save seemingly dire flicks like “Kindergarten Cop” or “Twins.” I guess what I’m saying is “Jingle All the Way” does not have a screenplay as good as either of those flicks. The movie is, truthfully, typical kiddy bullshit. There’s that obnoxious plot point of a parent too busy working to spend time with his kid. Even as a juvenile, I realized Mom or Dad putting food on the table, or saving for college, is slightly more important then a karate recital or whatever. “Jingle All the Way” piles on the stupid bullshit in other ways. At some point, antics involving frantic animals became a required element of slumming children’s entertainment. (Look no further then “Are We There Yet?” or “Kangaroo Jack.” Or, alternatively, don’t.) Thus, Arnold grapples with an angry, obviously animatronic reindeer in “Jingle All the Way.” Furthermore, the plot is loose enough for a kid to follow along.

As crappy as “Jingle All the Way’s” script, it still has Arnold Schwarzenegger in its corner. Arnie always gives one hundred and one percent, no matter how bad a project is. Highlights of “Jingle All the Way” include him screaming about cookies, kicking one of the three kings’ head through a window, punching a little person across the room, and sliding into a child’s playpen. (Hearing him pronounce “Turbo Man” in his own Arnold-esque way is pretty entertaining too.) The material is obviously beneath Schwarzenegger’s talent but he never seems embarrassed by it. Also not embarrassed by the material is Sinbad. He plays the movie’s ridiculous adversary, an unhinged mailman that attempts to claim the Turbo Man doll before Arnie does. Unlucky for us, Sinbad is nowhere near as entertaining a performer as Schwarzenegger. He mugs furiously, making the bad guy in an innocuous kid’s flick seem way too genuinely crazy. It’s an off-tone, off-putting performances.

I don’t know if kids will find “Jingle All the Way” amusing. As a child, I know I didn’t. For such an overbearingly zany movie, “Jingle All the Way” is surprisingly devoid of laughs. Because the script is so meager, the two protagonists are put through increasingly ridiculous scenarios. There’s a race through a toy store, Arnold beset by grotesquely cruel shop clerks. How about a dive through a hellish mall? Or a scuffle in a radio station, where Schwarzenegger and Sinbad harass a shameless Martin Mull? Or what about the road cop that constantly harasses Howard, who Sinbad unsuccessfully attempts to murder with a real bomb? The movie’s streak of disengaging, shrill comedy peaks when Arnold gets into a fight with a warehouse full of Santa Clauses. What the hell kind of Christmas movie is this, when it features the main character punching out a dozen different Santas? (Though one of them is Jim Belushi. I can understand someone wanting to punch him.) About the only jokes that work during this period is the subplot about Langston’s glad-handing neighbor, who is clumsily trying to seduce his wife. That’s mostly thanks to Phil Hartman, who was such a boundless comedic talent that he could wring laughs even out of material as dire as this.

The movie’s propensity for stupid bullshit climaxes in the utterly cartoonish last act. Through a series of the kind of dumb coincidences movies like this live on, Langston ends up playing Turbo Man in the Christmas parade. That’s dumb but at least still plausible. Furthermore, it features Curtis Armstrong as Turbo Man’s despised sidekick, Booster. That’s a plus in the film’s favor, I suppose. However, the last act quickly spirals totally out of control. For some reason, the Turbo Man suit has working weapons. Sinbad becomes a literal supervillain, as he assumes the identity of Turbo Man’s enemy, Dementor. In addition to actual turbo discs, the suit also features a working jet pack. That’s, uh, impressive. At this moment, “Jingle All the Ways” explodes from merely ridiculous to utterly impossible. It becomes a live action cartoon and not in a way that’s positive. It also sets up the stupid resolution we all see coming. Yes, Langston wins his son’s respect through the most unlikely of circumstances. Go figure.

Why Do I Own This?: It’s all very dumb, not especially funny, and fairly painful to watch in its entirety. So why do I own a movie as bad as “Jingle All the Way?” There are two reasons. I used to have a tradition with a cousin of mine. For Christmas presents, we would buy each other bad movies for gifts. This is why I own “Slugs” and “Zombie 4: After Death.” (I can recall gifting him “Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo” and “American Ninja 4.”) Through this same tradition, I received “Jingle All the Way.” Beyond that, there’s one other, significant reason I own this movie. Come on, guys, it’s Arnold Schwarzenegger. No matter how shitty the movie is, the charms of Arnie are irresistible. I am weak before Schwarzenegger’s strengths. Even with a movie this bad, I can’t help but own the DVD. I am morally bankrupt and I apologize. [5/10]

[X] Performs Ridiculous Feat(s) of Strength
[] Says, “I’ll be back.”
[X] Shows Off Buffness
[X] Unnecessarily Violent Opponent Dispatch*
[] Wields A Big Gun or Sword With One Arm

*A reindeer is an opponent and a punch to the head is unnecessarily violent.

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