It seems that Christmas movies tend to fall into two particular categories. First are your undisputed classics: “A Christmas Story,” “Home Alone,” “Elf,” and many more. And then you have the hidden gems; the movies that come up on TV every now and then, but are still appreciated. Movies like “Scrooged,” “Jack Frost,” “The Polar Express,” and today’s film, “Jingle All the Way.”
Arnold Schwarzenegger plays Howard Langston, a workaholic dad who’s too wrapped up by work to be involved in his family’s life. After missing his son Jamie’s (Jake Lloyd) karate class graduation, he promises to make it up to him by getting him the Turbo Man action figure, the hottest toy in town. When his wife, Liz (Rita Wilson) asks if he got the toy in advance, he panics and rushes to find it-only to find it nearly sold out. So Howard scours Minneapolis, racing against disgruntled mailman Myron (Sinbad), while worrying about his neighbor Ted (Phil Hartman) trying to seduce Liz using Howard’s focus on work during the holidays to his advantage.
The cast gives solid performance that match the heartwarming and anarchic moments. Schwarzenegger’s physique makes her brilliant physical comedy, and he gives a genuine performance. Sinbad is a joy to watch and proves to be a solid foil to Arnold, with Sinbad being more crafty in his tactics to secure the toy. Rita Wilson acts as a solid voice of reason and her arc with Phil Hartman is cathartic. Hartman plays Ted as a sleazy Ned Flanders who turns that folksy charm on and off, depending on circumstance. And for all the crap that Jake Lloyd got for “The Phantom Menace,” he does a good job. I generally cut child actors some slack, but putting that curve aside, Lloyd excels in the role.
For a standard story, it feels fresh with help from the characters’ chemistry and the wild turns taken. What starts as rushes through various toy stores turns into a wild, seasonal road trip. From uncovering an underground ring of mall Santas selling knock-off toys to a fight in the middle of a parade, there’s no hurdle that the movie can throw at Schwarzenegger. And the ending adds more to make the movie feel fresh and accentuate the heartwarming holiday cheer.
While it may not get as much coverage as “A Christmas Story,” this movie proves to be a classic in it’s own right. The cast is solid and the action is over the top and wild, leaving audiences to wonder what direction the movie will take. And it teaches the lessons of family during the holidays, the importance of keeping commitments, and to know when to…