Christmas laughs. So this is about a hard working father (Arnold Schwarzenegger) that has been swamped at the office, and hasn’t had Christmas shopping in the forefront of his brain. When finally dawns on him that he forgot to buy his son the hot new “it” toy on Christmas Eve, he has to do whatever it takes to make sure his son gets this action figure. This movie is one that is a bit of an enigma for me; I’ve watched this multiple times now, and have experienced mixed emotions each time. That said, I can usually go with my gut in figuring out my underlying feelings about a film. I am still no closer to figuring out whether I love this film or hate it.
Schwarzenegger: Action star. Governor. Comedian.
Right off the bat, Jingle All the Way starts off with a trope that is one of my biggest pet peeves to see in a movie: the working father that is busting his butt to provide for family, but they resent him for it because there aren’t enough hours in the day to attend karate competitions. It’s a cliché that is all to common in family films, and it is an instant turn-off for me in a movie, making it rare for a movie to work its way back and win me over. As obtrusive as that may be, it isn’t long before Jingle All the Way is showing its true colors, which is this absurdist comedy about what this mad-dash holiday has turned into. Is it intelligent commentary? No, not really, but everything doesn’t have to be Shakespeare. You can have a silly movie featuring one of the largest action stars alive and come up with the most ridiculous things for him to say without breaking a smile.
The jewel of this has to be, “Put that cookie down!”
This is filled with comedy buffoonery, and not everything in here makes me laugh. In fact, a lot of it leaves me flabbergasted as far as why anybody would think that this is a good idea, but I have to say, it leaves an impression and I will never forget Jingle All the Way. I don’t think this is something than anybody will ever defend as a classic, but for what it is, it’s entertaining in a slipping-into-an-alternate-dimension sort of way. The great Phil Hartman is great in this odd and slimy role, and for me, he’s one of the standouts of this. Even after multiple viewings, Jingle All the Way really still stands as one of those movies that I have no idea how to rate, because while it is inarguably a dopey comedy, it is one that I am able to laugh at because of the absurdity factor.
Jingle All the Way (1996) ***
– Critic for Hire