Let’s get one thing perfectly clear. Not every Christmas-themed film I enjoyed growing up will be considered “good” by the masses. These films are universally loathed which brings us to week two of the 3 Weeks of Christmas. One of my favorite Christmas films of all time is 1996’s Jingle All The Way.
Yes, I’m serious. I mean it in the most unironic way possible.
I was 10-years-old at the time of its release so combining Arnold Schwarzenegger and Christmas was a winning combination in any child of my generation’s mind. Me and my mother would often go to the movies on the weekends and since we always had differing opinions on what we liked to watch, we’d often split up, watch two separate films then meet afterwards for dinner. I forgot what she saw but I knew damn well that day that I was going to watch this Christmas classic after seeing the commercials on TV. She trusted my young self to sit through Jingle All The Way alone and I wound up having one of the more enjoyable theater experiences of my youth.
Growing up, just like every other kid, I was a huge Arnold Schwarzenegger fan. From The Terminator to Last Action Hero to True Lies, there wasn’t a cooler action star on the planet. That hilarious accent coupled with his unmatched charisma and strong stature made every Arnold film a must-see for me. In this film, he traded wielding big guns and blowing stuff up to get young children into the holiday spirit with this comedic, family-friendly role.
Schwarzenegger plays Howard Langston, an overworked salesman who constantly puts his job before his family. After narrowly missing a very important karate match featuring his son, Jamie, he struggles to find a way to make it up to him. After talking to Jamie one night, he finds out that he wants the hottest new toy for Christmas, Turbo-Man. Determined to not let him down again, Howard must find a way to acquire the doll so close to the holiday.
In typical fashion, Howard endures various pitfalls to acquire a Turbo-Man doll. These include clawing through an angry mob at the local mall (featuring a small cameo by Chris Parnell very early in his career), attempting to win a call-in contest at a radio station, fleeing from the police, and posing as Turbo-Man himself at the annual Christmas parade. While this is all going down, he befriends a deranged mailman named Myron (played by Sinbad when he was still relevant) who is after the same prize for his kid as their relationship is on the rocks as well. The two men race to the seemingly only unclaimed Turbo-Man left in existence. If that’s not enough, Howard’s seemingly perfect neighbor, Ted (the late Phil Hartman whom we all miss dearly), tries to put the moves on his wife, Liz (Rita Wilson) when he’s not around.
This includes a scene where Arnold coins one of his most famous catchphrases where he yells “WHO TOLD YOU YOU CAN EAT MY COOKIES? PUT THAT COOKIE DOWN! NOW!” into a payphone at Ted when he discovers he’s at his house alone with Liz to assist with some baking.
My personal favorite scene though was when Arnold shows us exactly why he’s Arnold by fighting off an army of evil Santa Clauses who try to swindle him out of cash for a fake Turbo-Man. This hilarious melee includes Howard cleaning house, weapons coming into play such as candy cane nun-chucks and Arnold being dog-piled. Hey, there’s even appearances here by Jim Belushi and current WWE star, Big Show! The cops arrive to break up the brawl but Howard is able to pose as a cop using a toy badge, steering clear of any trouble. There is no conceivable way that would work in real life buy hey, movie logic!
Another part I always enjoyed is when Myron threatens a group of cops with a mail bomb. For those that don’t remember, there was a disturbing trend in the 90s where homemade bombs being mailed to random people disguised as simple packages. Extreme precautions had to be made to discard these boxes sent from unknown senders. Here, Myron uses the mail bomb to escape the armed forces but once the Lieutenant assures his squad that it’s a fake, the box explodes in his face before being mocked by his back-up.
Later on, Howard becomes desperate and attempts to rob Ted’s house after he’s informed that he already bought a Turbo-Man for his son weeks ago. He second guesses the despicable act and leaves the doll be. When he’s unsuccessful in escaping, his family and Ted catch him in the act and abandon him. Howard tries to make amends when he rushes to the parade but accidentally gets mistaken for the actor set to play Turbo-Man. He’s then suited and thrust into action. With his son in tow, he tries to thwart Myron, now masquerading as Turbo-Man nemesis, Demento.
In the end, Liz rejects Ted’s advances and Howard is able to overcome Demento and secure Jamie with a Turbo-Man doll during the parade, making his Christmas. However, Jamie gives the doll to Myron to give to his son as he now has the real deal at home in Howard. Howard promises to put his family first from now on and everyone lives happily ever after.
A classic by any means? Not to most people. Personally one of my most enjoyable Christmas films? You bet.
How convenient that a sequel dropped 18 years later. How excited I was when this film was announced? Well once I learned it was being produced by WWE Studios and featured no Arnold, let’s just say that my interest waned quite a bit. Oh no, this direct-to-DVD flick stars horribly unfunny, redneck comedian, Larry the Cable Guy and WWE wrestler, Santino Marella. Can this be as good as the former? I’m going to assume no.