In the first of our 2014 “Advent Calender” series, where we ask a writer to dissect their favourite Christmas viewing for your pleasure, Adam Hofmeister looks at the “classic” holiday romp Jingle All The Way and explains why he finds it “grotesque, but endearing.”
The Arnie abomination that is Jingle All The Way (1996) is a superficial and vapid advertisement for consumerist culture, and evidence for the argument that Christmas is entirely commercialised. It also happens to be a Yuletide tradition that I watch it every year, no matter how much its Reaganomic subtext should ethically repulse me, nor how many of my peers disown me for my love of it. It is the best kind of cinematic junk food.
Howard (Arnold Schwarzenegger), a terrible father, tries to make up for his lacklustre parenting skills by purchasing his son (Jake Lloyd) a Turbo Man action figure, and therefore proving he loves him. Rather than resolving to spend more time with his son, bribery appears to be the more tenable solution.
In his efforts, he ends up fighting with another desperate parent (Sinbad), the police, a black market Santa mafia led by James Belushi, and a reindeer, all in the attempt to win back the affection of his son and spouse. If this hadn’t been a blockbuster with a heavy marketing campaign, it would certainly have been a cult film.
Somewhere in the mess are Sinbad and the late Phil Hartman trying to be funny (sorry fellas), the score is a combination of the sugary swill expected of a 90s family movie and faux rock & roll Christmas songs, Arnie’s consistent gurning is painful to watch, the acting from everyone else is terrible, and the comic book ending makes Flash Gordon look restrained.
And yet, I cannot help but love watching it. It’s the Christmas version of Tommy Wiseau’s The Room: grotesque, but endearing and endlessly hilarious because of it. But whilst The Room has become a favourite for many reasons in my adult years, Jingle All The Way is something I remember bonding with my whole family over as a child. We all knew it was embarrassing trash, but we would laugh at Arnie’s over-the-top garbled shouting of “JAMIE!” and the insistence that emotional wellbeing is in a cruddy plastic doll. So, ironically enough, a film which basically propagates the rancid ideology of consumerism has actually given me an annual tradition to bond with my family. Go figure.
- Adam Hofmeister 05/12/14