Jingle All the Way (1996) may very well have wished to have been a charming family-friendly Christmas movie with a light-hearted battle of good and evil and a race against time at its delicious candy coated center. Instead, it’s littered with detestable characters–particularly the protagonist–who repel the audience with their callow, self-serving and childish behavior, a fact that is not magically wiped away by a cheap 11th hour personality shift presumably meant to inject a timeless message of the redemptive powers of family and the True Meaning of the holidays.
I don’t say this often, but Bill Maher is absolutely right and perhaps even understating things with his Christmas 2010 video message admonishing Americans for our wanton greed and worship of cheap, consumerist shit. In fact, he hit the nail square on its Made In China plastic head. So in that way, one could argue that Jingle All the Way is actually an important cultural artifact; a mid-’90s bellwether of just how much worse things could get. A warning of the snowballing consumerism that explodes during the holidays with Americans’ increasing willingness to lose their humanity in the battle for acquiring more objects. And not objects that are necessary for human survival—food, shelter, beer—but rather, literal plastic pieces of disposable and meaningless crap that they are more than willing to beat the shit out of another human being in order to buy.
Actually…There is obviously nothing to learn from Jingle All the Way except A) poor Phil Hartman’s talents were useless in the face of such cinematic evil and B) director Brian Levant (Beethoven, Are We There Yet?, Snow Dogs) hates children. As such, we’ll do what we do with every silly little movie that comes across our plates; drink an unreasonable amount of cheap red wine, make some snarky comments and top it off with a holiday appropriate drinking game!
The plot in sum: Howard (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is a career obsessed steroid abuser who can’t keep his promises to his personality-free wife Liz (Mrs. Tom Hanks) or young
Skywalker son Jamie (a delightful melon headed Jake Lloyd, who is NOT at all bitter about his childhood spent acting in shitty roles in shitty movies.).
Always putting the client before his family, Howard neglects the true No. 1 customer and misses his child’s karate match in a scene that is heart breakingly familiar to any of us who had parents that were so obsessed with making sure that we had a comfortable roof over our head, food on the table and the chance to one day attend college that they occasionally missed a minor footnote in our whiny pre-adolescent lives. And what is this high-powered career to which Howard is a slave, you ask? Hollywood agent? Publisher of a New York magazine? Secret agent for the government? Nay. Howard is a mattress salesmen.
Howard tries to make up for this parenting slight and various other shortcomings (such as, being a complete and utter tool) by scoring THE toy of the season for Jamie; a Turbo Man action figure. Because Howard is so obsessed with his exciting work in the bedding industry that he can’t focus on the needs of anyone else, he forgets until the last minute that he must get this object in order to prove his love to his son and to a lesser extent, his wife. That the toy was likely manufactured in China by children his son’s own age is only the least of the issues with this film, so let’s just keep forging ahead, shall we?
The story then freestyles into a jilted re-telling of Howard’s search for the holy grail. The editing choices and sequencing are so abrupt and jarring as to almost seem avant garde until you remember “Ha, ha, ha….no. It’s just SHITTY.” Howard is pitted against Myron (played by venerable 90s comedian Sinbad, who YELLS EVERY LINE cause it’s funnier that way), another dead-beat dad who waited ’til the last minute to get his son’s Christmas gift. This little plot device seems unlikely, given how he blames his dad’s failure to get him a specific toy for his 8th Christmas (or something) as the reason for his shortcomings as a human being. That Myron is an unstable United States Postal employee is like a delicious layer of frosting on the shortbread cookie of crap. These two engage in a rock ’em, sock ’em battle to the end, searching high and low for that impossible-to-find Turbo Man, and wouldn’t you know it? What they really find is some important life lessons along the way. (Not at all.)
So there’s that. Now – mix up a Christmas cocktail, pour some eggnog and crack open a bottle of Five O’Clock gin, cause nothing’s ruining your Christmas faster than the Jingle All the Way holiday drinking game!
– Take a swig of whiskey every time Ahnold sounds like he’s aping McBain.
– Take another pull whenever “Jingle All the Way”, the tune, is subtlety woven into the picture. Thematic elements, people!
– Eat 3 pieces of spiked watermelon and toss another piece of Star Wars memorabilia atop the Yule log every time “Jamie” reads his lines in a way that makes the inside of your ears clench up.
– Drink half a bottle of cheap whiskey and consider turning the second half into a Molotov cocktail everytime there is a joke about someone “going postal.”
– Zlam one Zima for every zany ’90z joke.
– Wrinkle your nose in disgust and alarm and wash it away with a red or green Jell-O shot whenever a comedic actor that you otherwise enjoy appears doing something embarrassing. Such as appearing in this %^#@-ing abomination.
– Slowly sip on a glass of mulled wine whenever Howard does something reprehensible like shove an old lady, assault a child, assault an animal, assault a little person or commit larceny and various acts of vandalism. Emphasis on slowly. We want you around to celebrate New Year’s!
– Drink an entire case of delicious Four Loko whenever a character has a meaningful interaction with another human being or does something remotely humorous, sincere or kind. What? You’re scared this would kill you? Trust us; this won’t ever be a factor in the game.
– Shotgun an entire…wait a minute. Was that a $%&@-ing Rodney King joke?
– Finish your whiskey and write a check payable to your local foodbank or shelter for abused women and children when Sinbad completes his speech about how a child failing to get 1 toy at 1 Christmas will necessitate a lifetime of therapy and regret.
– 1 Irish car bomb for every mail bomb joke. Yes, you will need more than 1.
– One disappearing glass of Continuity Error wine every time the scene cuts from a close-up of the city to an overhead shot of the city. Snow! No snow! Snow! No snow! Winter in Minnesota! Summer in Minnesota! Magic!
– One bitter cup of Irish coffee every time Howard nearly lets his child die a horrific death in his quest to get said child a toy.
– Finish all alcohol and reconfirm to yourself by checking Wikipedia for the 4th time tonight that, yes, THIS man has indeed served as governor of one of the most powerful states in the union. Merry Christmas!
–Rental Rehab review by Tricia