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Arnold Schwarzenegger and pro-wrestler Big Show (Paul Wight) in ‘Jingle All the Way,‘ available to stream on Disney+, Amazon Prime Video and YouTube (Photo provided via @KennyBoyle31 on Twitter)

Here’s why ‘Jingle All the Way’ is the most honest Christmas movie

There’s a lot that’s been said about Jingle All the Way since it was released 25 years ago, with most of it bring slanderous. Many choose to overlook it, seeing it as nothing more than 80 minutes of festive silliness and stupidity, but it’s much more than that. It’s the only Christmas film that I’ve seen that addresses what the holiday has come to symbolize as the years go on, that of capitalism, stress and anxiety.

The film follows a workaholic father named Howard (Arnold Schwarzenegger) who forgets to buy the one toy his son wants for Christmas. The toy, an action figure by the name of Turbo Man, is that year’s hot commodity. This forces Howard to brave all the department and toy stores in town in search of the toy, getting into increasingly more and more ridiculous situations as he goes along.

I’ll be honest, I know Jingle All the Way isn’t an all-time classic or even a particularly great movie, but it deserves to be given a second look. Every other Christmas film, or at least the vast majority of them, romanticizes the holiday and looks past the ugly parts of it. 

Christmas is a time of year that, while many celebrate the religious aspect of it, is mostly used by corporate America to sell people more stuff, especially products for children. Every year, it’s built up to be like a kid’s second birthday, but it’s better because of the (usually) bigger number of presents. This is a film that takes that idea on and is actually cynical about it. 

None of the adults shopping for Turbo Man throughout the film actually want to be there; none of them are happy to be spending money on this toy their children will forget about as time goes on; none of them are happy to be fighting over a hunk of talking plastic; but they have to get it because everyone else is and they don’t want to risk their kids becoming outsiders. 

Howard wants to be there even less than those parents, but he keeps pushing because he wants a better relationship with his son, and he knows getting Turbo Man is the way to do it. The only way this mostly absent father can connect with his child is through the things he buys for him instead of through a real and genuine connection. It’s a symbol of the desperation, stress and anxiety a lot of people feel when shopping for others, that their gift needs to be something bigger than it really is.

Jingle All the Way doesn’t bother getting logged down in its less than optimistic subject matter though, as it’s a light-hearted and fun family flick. That doesn’t mean that just because it has a mostly dumb and silly exterior that it can’t mean something more underneath. 

I’m not going to be pretentious, blow smoke and then say that it’s a deeply intelligent film that has deeply poignant social commentary — it really doesn’t. But acting like this film isn’t at least good or doesn’t have something to say about the Christmas season is just laughable and borders on being as absurd as the film gets. Rotten Tomatoes has it sitting at a 19% critic score and a 38% audience score, and, personally, I just don’t understand why. 

Yes, it’s a film that features Arnold Schwarzenegger flying around on a jetpack, fighting a bunch of mall Santas in a sketchy warehouse and being an accomplice to a bomb threat on a radio station, but all that ridiculousness is used to exemplify the great lengths parents will go to in order to make their kids happy. 

There are things that don’t work in the film, like everything involving the neighbor’s reindeer and the noticeably bad flying effects at the end, but it’s still a film worth watching. I watch it every year on Christmas Eve, it’s a tradition at this point, and I don’t think that tradition will stop any time soon. 

My adoration for this film has grown steadily over the years, starting as something I would watch as a kid purely to laugh at, but it eventually became something I grew to laugh with and understand as an adult. I implore you to give it another watch, especially if you haven’t seen it in a long time, but watch it through a lens of honesty instead of through one of criticism. At the very least, you’ll have a jolly good time laughing at the absurdity of it all and hearing the massive quantity of quotable lines.

In the wise words of the film’s Giant Mall Santa (Paul Wight), “I’m gonna deck your halls, bub!”

Happy holidays.


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