Alex explains why the best Christmas movie of all time is probably Jingle All the Way.
SPOILER ALERT: This post features extensive spoilers about Jingle All the Way.
It’s almost Christmas, and I just both started and finished all of my shopping. I don’t mess around when I’m in a mall: it’s a calculated attack. I know exactly what I need, I know exactly where to find it, and I am an expert at dodging people who send text messages blindly while they move about the mall. I imagine this is what Christmas shopping is like for Jack Bauer, whenever he isn’t in exile or jailed or momentarily dead. It is possible to shop like this because nobody on my list would desire whatever 2010’s version of a Tickle Me Elmo is. However, as a yearly tradition, I still get to go through the process of finding that seemingly unattainable gift with my dear friend Howard as I watch my favourite Christmas movie.
Jingle All the Way is about Howard Langston (Arnold Schwarzenegger), the head of a Minneapolis-based mattress company. Howard often ignores his family in favour of business, and his wife and child seem to be growing tired of it. His son Jamie, played by incomparable method actor Jake Lloyd, has a karate class on the night of December 23rd, which Howard has promised he will be on time for. But as anybody who has seen a Hollywood movie before can predict, Howard misses the class, sending the Langston family into a fit of Christmas disappointment.
Howard comes home to find Jamie watching a television show about Turboman, who is Jamie’s favourite superhero. Howard is worried about how he is going to mend this situation, and after a few embarrassing attempts to cheer up his borderline comatose son, he comes up with the foolproof American solution. Howard asks his son what he wants for Christmas, and Jamie launches to action, performing a live dramatic interpretation of a commercial for the Turboman action figure. When Howard essentially promises Jamie that he will get him this toy for Christmas, all problems are instantly solved, with father and son sharing a heartwarming hug. And then I weep.
Jingle All the Way is a Christmas movie, yes, but it is to Christmas what Cops is to law enforcement. It focuses on the worst aspects of Christmas, and does so in a way that (at best) only seems vaguely ironic. Everybody knows that Christmas hasn’t been about Jesus’ birth in a long time, but this movie more or less says that Christmas is almost exclusively about capitalism. I’m not calling for a widespread return to Christian values here, I’m just saying that at this point, Jingle All the Way is possibly the most accurate Christmas movie there is. Everybody needs to buy a Turboman doll, because if they don’t, their kid will hate them forever.
The majority of the movie takes place on Christmas Eve, documenting Howard’s pursuit of the elusive Turboman. At the first toy store he goes to, he meets Myron (Sinbad, who is somehow actually pretty funny in this), a postal worker who is stuck in the same predicament as Howard. They end up battling each other as a sort of Wile E. Coyote/Road Runner duo, which leads to the other interesting/upsetting element of the movie. Howard rocks the well-starched white collar of corporate bliss, while Myron (literally and figuratively) wears the blue collar of the US Postal Service. The classes are in contention here, and it could get ugly.
Howard’s quest for the Turboman doll is something he undertakes because it is the only thing that will get his son to forgive him, and that alone says more about North American culture than most serious movies do. Jingle All the Way is just a cheerier There Will be Blood. Capitalism rules over all, familial ties included. Jamie typically gets what he wants, so Howard can’t just stop getting his son what he desires now.
When Myron explains how his father never got him the toy he desired while his rich neighbour got everything he wanted, Howard can’t help but picture Jamie as Myron. Howard had better get Jamie this toy; otherwise he’s not only dooming his relationship with his child, but he’s also condemning Jamie to the ills of a working class life.
Towards the end of the movie, still Turboman-less, Howard ends up at the Christmas Eve Wintertainment parade downtown in an attempt to meet up with his family. He accidentally stumbles into a building that is apparently used for parade float preparation, and due to his muscular physique, Howard is mistaken for the actor meant to play Turboman in the parade. Howard is then forced into costume (complete with a functioning jetpack), and up onto a parade float. And better yet, he is given a chance to pick a child to receive a special edition Turboman doll. Unsurprisingly, he picks his son out of the crowd to receive the toy. Finally, Howard has provided for his child (unless you count keeping him warm and fed in a gorgeous house, in which case he was providing all along).
BUT WAIT! Myron caught up to Howard, and is now in the costume of Turboman’s arch-nemesis, Dementor. This leads to an over-the-top action sequence that features our competitors fighting it out, with Myron so dedicated to getting the toy that he even momentarily kidnaps Jamie, leading to near death-by-jetpack experiences for all involved. After it’s all over, Howard/Turboman has defeated Myron/Dementor, and Jamie/Spoiled Brat has his Turboman doll. But, as Myron is being lead away by the police, Jamie realizes that this movie has no traditional holiday spirit and makes a last ditch attempt to inject some into the film by giving Myron the action figure for his kid. Aw, how sweet. Myron says that it will make his son very happy, but I don’t know how he’ll give it to his son. By my count, Myron is going to be charged with attempted kidnapping, multiple counts of assault with a deadly weapon, and theft. His son might get a Turboman this year, but he certainly won’t have his dad at home for the next few Christmases, and his family will have to learn to adjust to life without a father figure and his paycheque.
There is one quick shot during Howard’s Turboman jetpack scene that sums up this movie and the modern Christmas frenzy perfectly. Howard loses control of his jetpack and flies through the window of an apartment building before flying out through another window on the other side. While passing through the building, however, he flies right through a family’s dining room as they pray over their Christmas Eve turkey dinner, destroying everything. Turboman, and consumerism in general, has lead to the destruction of the religious and familial elements of Christmas, and he doesn’t even care to look back once.