No other holiday has more movies and specials than Christmas. Because of this, there are just as many “best Christmas movies” lists that make their rounds on the Internet each year. They typically include Home Alone, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, Miracle on 34th Street, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and other timeless classics. However, they never seem to include the 1996 family comedy Jingle All the Way. If anything, it has shown up on several “WORST Christmas movies” lists. However, I’m here to defend it and prove that it’s a true holiday masterpiece.
Jingle All the Way follows the misadventures of a dad who struggles to find the season’s hottest toy for his son on Christmas Eve. His constant misfortune leads to hilarity, as we see him experience ridiculous situations, take big hits in goofy slapstick, and take part in witty dialogue and memorable one-liners. The movie, while not necessarily as funny as some of the bigger holiday titles like Christmas Vacation, does offer up a lot of big laughs.
Arnold Schwarzenegger getting drunk with a reindeer, shouting over the phone about cookies, and frantically chasing a child through a mall’s jungle gym is extremely entertaining. The ridiculousness seen throughout much of the film is so wacky that it needs to be seen, like Arnold Schwarzenegger attempting to play an “everyman” who works in sales or Phil Hartman playing a creep trying to sleep with all the moms in the neighborhood, with all of it being wonderfully over-acted.
One of the key features of many Christmas movies is, of course, Santa Claus. Jingle All the Way not only has Santa Claus, but it has quite a lot of Santa Clauses. In fact, it has an entire army of black market Santas that Schwarzenegger has to fight, including a ninja Santa, Jim Belushi Santa, and even WWE’s The Big Show as Santa Claus.
The film, at times, feels like one big celebration of Christmas. There’s even a scene where Arnold Schwarzenegger sprints down the street like a mad man repeatedly listing Santa’s eight reindeer, and the final act even takes place at a massive Christmas parade.
The movie perfectly showcases what a modern Christmas is for a lot of people. It shows how people in various professions deal with the season at their work and how it affects their lives. We see Schwarzenegger’s character being so wrapped up with sales that he misses family events, Sinbad’s over-the-top postal carrier character feel overworked with how much more he has to do during the holiday season when there is an abundance of packages and mail compared to the rest of the year, and retail workers getting trampled and berated by customers doing their Christmas shopping and then taking out that aggression on others.
Some parents feel they need to buy their kid the perfect present each year to make them happy. There are many parents who are currently upset they can’t get their kid the latest video game console like Schwarzenegger was about not finding Jamie a Turbo Man action figure. Everyone has that one childhood toy they absolutely NEEDED to get, whether they actually did or not, that left an impact on them, like the infamous Nintendo 64 Kid from that old YouTube video. That’s what Turbo Man is for Jamie. The movie expertly captures that childhood Christmas gift hope. There’s a lot of realism about the Christmas season that everyone can relate to throughout the film.
One of the main themes seen throughout the movie is commentary on consumerism, especially around the holidays. People are bitter, stressed, are willing to go to great lengths to get what they want like trampling over other shoppers or retail workers, and are looking for outlets for their aggression like sending bombs in the mail. The movie pokes fun at how people have come to act toward each other around the holidays to prove a point about how people should actually be acting. It, in a way, tells the same message about the “true meaning of Christmas” that every other holiday special does, but it does so ironically for the sake of humor.
Despite characters being stressed or bitter, or the portrayal of how consumerism affects the holiday season, the movie offers a lot of heart and provides an ending showing what Christmas should really be about. Ted (Schwarzenegger’s character) realizes that being with his family is more important than any gift he can give them, and Jamie realizes he wants to spend time with his dad more than he wants an action figure. The story wraps up nicely with a message about how spending time with loved ones is the greatest gift of all, and that we as a society shouldn’t be too focused on meaningless possessions like we are. This leads to some nice, heartfelt moments toward the end.
Countless critics have torn this movie apart, but they have all said the same thing about it: that it’s mean-spirited for a Christmas movie. Why is it that having mean-spirited characters and jokes is a strike against this movie, but not others? Rudolph is treated terribly by other reindeer and even by Santa Claus, and Santa only changes his tone when he needs Rudolph’s help. Charlie Brown spends an entire TV special being bullied, but it’s all okay just because they all wish him a Merry Christmas at the end. The Santa Clause starts with the previous Santa falling off a roof and dying, and then his elves don’t even mourne him. In Home Alone, Kevin’s mom makes him sleep in the attic even though he’s the one who is treated like trash by his terrible family, and then his life is in constant danger while a couple of burglars chase him down after his family forgets to bring him on a flight. All these other Christmas classics are extremely mean-spirited, but critics only seem to think it’s an issue when it’s Jingle All the Way or some other Christmas movie they dislike (or aren’t paid to say they like).
Jingle all the Way is fun, hilarious, and provides a lesson about how spending time with loved ones is what is most important rather than filling our lives with meaningless possessions. It celebrates the holiday season with countless Santa Clauses, reindeer, and a Christmas parade. It even showcases what people in various professions realistically go through during the holiday season rather than putting a bow on it like other movies often do. It’s ridiculousness at times makes it all the more memorable. There’s no reason why Jingle All the Way shouldn’t be considered a Christmas classic like other popular films are. It’s certainly worth being on your holiday movie watchlist each year.