A Look Back at ‘Jingle All the Way’ – 25 Years of Corny Arnie Goodness

Jingle All the Way (1996) - IMDb

Now that Jingle All the Way is on Disney+, I figured that I would give it a rewatch for its 25th anniversary. I remember it as the movie that introduced me to the corniness that is Arnold Schwarzenegger. Though he was mostly known for being an 80’s action star with films like The Terminator, Conan the Barbarian, Predator, and Commando, there was a time when he decided to take on family comedies. Kindergarten Cop and Junior were movies that showcased his comedic chops, but none seem to match the ridiculous, over-the-top, exaggeration that is Jingle All the Way. Jingle All the Way is Arnold at his corniest as he plays a father desperate to get his son a Turbo Man action figure for Christmas, only to cross paths with a police officer, a manic mailman, and a crowd of last-minute shoppers who all seek to get the ever in-demand Turbo Man doll. In reality, Jingle All the Way is a testament of a father trying to prove his worthiness to his son as he sets out on an all-day journey to make things right.

At the start, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Howard Langston is a workaholic who never seems to have time for his family (Typical 90’s Christmas family comedy fare, sure), making promises he cannot keep to his son, Jamie (A pre-Star Wars: Phantom Menace), and further disappointing his wife, Liz (Rita Wilson). After missing Jamie’s karate class, Howard tries to make amends to his son by promising him a Turbo Man action figure, only he forgot to pick it up two weeks before Christmas, as his wife so reminds him. Thus begins a frantic chase on Christmas Eve to pick up the toy before he lets Jamie down again.

Jingle All the Way came at a time when Cabbage Patch Kids and Tickle Me Elmo dolls were at the height of their popularity, with parents crowding and stamping each other just to buy one for their kids. The movie seems to understand the frustration of getting a best-selling toy for Christmas; it is more of a movie for adults than it is for kids, though kids will enjoy the corniness and slapstick antics as Arnie runs through each shopping centre as he and Sinbad’s delivery man try to outwit each other over it, almost to the extreme. Sinbad’s character is a firecracker just waiting to explode, and the comedian sells it at every turn. Though it is harder not to laugh at Arnold’s expressive delivery as each inconvenience seems to hit his way. One of his crowning achievements in cheesy line delivery is the scene where he tries to make a call to Liz, only for his helpful, yet scheming, neighbor Ted (Played to comedic perfection by the late Phil Hartman) to answer the phone taunting Howard by eating the cookies Liz has made (“Who told you you could eat my cookies?” “PUT THAT COOKIE DOWN… NOW!”). Even a cold-hearted cynic may get a chuckle at this exchange, which is one of the reasons why I put Jingle All the Way as one of my guilty pleasures.

As a kid, I found Jingle All the Way to be a fun romp, but as an adult, I find it to be a so-bad-its-good masterpiece! This could have been an embarrassing turn for Schwarzenegger, but for us, seeing his character in a red Turbo Man suit near the end of the movie, while figuring out the mechanics is a riot for us! Am I ashamed that I enjoy Jingle All the Way? Having to think of the cringe factor this movie has, I do not want to think of this movie in a public setting. But with all guilty pleasures, I enjoy it the same, and still find it hilarious to this day!

One thought on “A Look Back at ‘Jingle All the Way’ – 25 Years of Corny Arnie Goodness

  1. I actually saw this film in theaters as a kid, and I’m pretty sure it was the first Arnold Schwarzenegger movie I saw as a result. I remember liking it, but yeah, it is definitely a product of its time. The 1990s was a good decade in film, but it did seem to be a hotbed for a lot of cheesy family fare, huh?

    Liked by 1 person

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