He was Conan. He was the Terminator. He killed the Predator. In 1996, he fought off a postal worker for a Turbo-Man doll. Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, this is Jingle All the Way starring Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Having semi-recently starred in a both comedies (Junior) and action films featuring comedic elements (Last Action Hero and True Lies), Arnold Schwarzenegger then tested uncharted territory: the Christmas film. Arnie had joined par with Tim Allen. Avoiding the legend of Christmas (Santa, birth of Christ etc.), Jingle All the Way instead presents the story of a workaholic father, who is faced with the challenge of buying his son the most popular toy this Christmas: Turbo Man. Of course, Howard (Schwarzenegger) was supposed to have purchased the toy weeks ago, as reminded by his wife, Liz (Rita Wilson) – but Howard has her believing that he remembered to buy it! In an attempt to mask his error, Howard ventures throughout the state on Christmas Eve to buy the most popular toy – what could go wrong?
Because Jingle All the Way presents a realistic story of which many people have experienced year in year out – last-minute Christmas shopping – this holiday films has more credibility that most Christmas films. Jingle All the Way gives its viewer something to relate to whether it is from the present or a memory of the past. Sadly though, Jingle All the Way is often regarded as one of Schwarzenegger’s weaker or weakest films and poor amongst other Christmas films. At the time of release, the likes of USA Today’s Jack Garner regarded Jingle All the Way to be a, “painfully bad movie”, furthermore, The New York Times’ Janet Maslin suggested that Jingle All the Way, “lacked any real plot,” But what the critics and scrooges fail to mention about Jingle All the Way is that is possesses one of the most beautiful, feel-good and tear-jerking moments to ever appear on screen. Below is what happens in the build up to the special moment:
After constantly fighting off Myron (Sinbad) – a crazed, bomb-carrying postman – in shopping malls, diners and a radio studio, and then knocking-out the reindeer belonging to his sleazy neighbour, Ted (Phil Hartman), Howard finally heads back into town to meet up with his wife and son, Jamie (Jake Lloyd) for the Christmas Eve parade ft. a display involving Turbo Man and his nemesis – remember: Howard keeps missing both Jamie’s karate classes and the annual Christmas Eve parade, thus Jamie is more or less heartbroken. Somehow, within a warehouse-type building, the production team behind the Turbo Man stunt assume Howard to be the replacement Turbo Man! During the parade display, Turbo Man is set to award a prized Turbo-Man doll to a lucky child in the crowd – obviously, Howard picks Jamie, however, Myron (dressed as Turbo Man’s nemesis, Demetor) gatecrashes the situation, and almost kills Jamie. Five minutes later, Howard/Turbo Man saves the day, Myron/Dementor is arrested, and Jamie is almost-crying in wishing Howard was there to witness such heroic events. Now, one of the most beautiful, feel-good and tear-jerking moments to ever appear on screen: Turbo Man ensures Jamie that his dad loves him etc, Liz and Jamie wonder how Turbo Man would know, and then Howard says, “Who would know better than?” and takes his helmet off leading to a very happy family moment on Christmas Eve. Perhaps the most the most beautiful father and son moment of the last 20 or so years, and the most underrated of all-time.
So, where does Jingle All the Way stand as a Christmas film? Jingle All the Way will never be a Christmas classic on the levels of It’s a Wonderful Life, Home Alone or the more recent Elf, however, as the years have progressed and its age is now over 20 years old, Jingle All the Way possesses both a cult following and historical relevancy. In the digital age, there is an overwhelming ease to purchase both physical and digital items from the likes of eBay and Amazon, however, in the era of Jingle All the Way, consumers were posed to excruciating queuing and travelling for an item or simply missing out. In terms of legacy, Jingle All the Way actually has a fairly good one. And what of Jingle All the Way’s legacy as a Schwarzenegger film? As previously mentioned, Jingle All the Way is regarded as one of Schwarzenegger’s weakest films. 21 years after release and the likes of The Terminator, Predator, Total Recall and Terminator 2: Judgment Day are regarded as either the best of most important Schwarzenegger-starred films. One can even included Batman & Robin as possessing more of a legacy than Jingle All the Way.
Ultimately, what can one essentially champion Jingle All the Way as? It is a bold statement, but Jingle All the Way is arguably the best non-magical Christmas film of the last 25 years. Disagree? You don’t deserve a Turbo Man for Christmas.