For the movie's hero, Howard Langston (Schwarzenegger), his current situation is slightly less trying. A workaholic, Howard has become a lousy husband and father, missing a series of obligations and special events. His young son, Jamie (Jake Lloyd), takes Howard's absences especially hard.
After missing the kid's very important karate class, Howard offers Jamie anything. The boy says he wants a TurboMan action figure, which the father promises to get. There's just one problem. It's Christmas Eve and Howard, who was supposed to buy the insanely popular toy weeks ago, faces long odds to get one. Regardless, Howard joins the mad throngs from store to store looking for one. It's a brutal day consisting of psychotic reindeer, sleazy Santas, and mocking retailers. Added to Howard's retail misery is that he has to contend with a psychotic mail carrier (Sinbad) while a lecherous next-door neighbor (Phil Hartman) puts the moves on his neglected wife (Rita Wilson, vastly underutilized here).
The constant activity makes the movie's pace brisk, but to paraphrase legendary basketball coach John Wooden, don't mistake activity for achievement. Every performance and comedic premise is overblown and amplified, as if the movie was being made for viewers with poor vision and hearing. Sly jokes and veiled insults are few and far between, making the movie essentially an 86-minute string of brainless physical comedy.
Schwarzenegger's presence doesn't help. Sure, it was mildly amusing seeing the contrast of the pumped up superstar paired with Danny DeVito in Twins or a gaggle of five-year-olds in Kindergarten Cop. It's a mystery why he's cast as a determined, hapless family man, since Schwarzenegger's career has been built on playing characters that would kill such a guy in a heartbeat. His limited range hurts, especially when he's paired with Lloyd, who is so shrill here that some viewers may actually change their minds about having kids someday.
Jingle All the Way does tackle the holiday-related theme of landing the season's must-have toy, though it's unlikely to get anyone in the holiday mood. It's so busy being clownish that any attempts at sentiment come across as superficial and mandatory; it's like Levant asked, "How many hugs with Arnie and the kid do we need to be classified as a 'holiday film?'" Also of little help, the movie focuses on a father trying to buy his kid's love and forgiveness. It's hard to root for family cohesion when the motives are commerce-driven. Some movies get better with time and understanding. Eleven years after its release, Jingle All the Way is still heartless and unfunny and as welcome a part of the holidays as traffic and fruit cake.
The new DVD includes two cuts, one with five additional minutes of footage, plus three featurettes; one making-of vignette and a couple of added oddities.
Get to jinglin'.
Run time: 89 mins
In Theaters: Friday 22nd November 1996
Box Office Worldwide: 129
Distributed by: 20th Century Fox
Production compaines: 1492 Pictures, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
Contactmusic.com: 1.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 17%
Fresh: 7 Rotten: 35
IMDB: 5.4 / 10
Director: Brian Levant
Screenwriter: Randy Kornfield
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger as Howard Langston, Phil Hartman as Ted Maltin, Sinbad as Myron Larabee, Rita Wilson as Liz Langston, Jake Lloyd as Jamie Langston, Martin Mull as D.J., Martin Mull as Mall Santa, Laraine Newman as First Lady
Writer-director Christopher McQuarrie brings a dark and gritty tone to this larger-than-life franchise. Along with...
With a spectacular setting and two solid actors on-screen, this thriller builds enough solid suspense...
Those bright sparks at Pixar have done it again, taking a fiercely original approach to...
Slick direction and meaty performances may be enough for some viewers, but this boxing drama's...
Loose and impressionistic, this beautifully shot film traces the career of a DJ who pioneered...
Without a single moment of originality, this found-footage horror movie really deserves to be the...
An intriguing premise keeps the audience gripped for about 20 minutes before the movie runs...