Yesterday I published a review of new Norwegian horror movie, Cadaver. At the beginning of my review I passed comment that I had two films to watch in my playlist, one being Cadaver, the other being Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey.
After watching and enjoying Cadaver, I figured it was time to give Jingle Jangle a couple of hours of my time. The film arrived on Netflix late last week and as it is getting nearer to the Christmas period, I figured a bit of festive fun wouldn’t hurt.
For those completely unfamiliar with Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey, the movie tells the story of a toy inventor, whose life falls into decline after he is betrayed by his former apprentice. However, with the help of his granddaughter he begins to see a new perspective, and he does this while surrounded by music, merriment, and some well-choreographed dance sequences.
Directed by David E. Talbert, Jingle Jangle is a live-action musical which also includes elements of CGI and stop motion. The film stars Forest Whitaker, Keegan-Michael Key, Phylicia Rashad, and Ricky Martin, and is suitable for family viewing.
Now as a general rule of thumb, I like musicals – I like them very much. But as another general rule of thumb, musicals live and die based on how good the songs are, and while I do have some very positive things to say about Jingle Jangle (stick with this review, heavy praise is coming), let me get some of the negative out of the way first: The songs in this film are a bit of a bust.
I feel it is important to note this straight away, because the music is a big element of this picture and of all the things this film does right, it fumbles when it comes to the songs. They’re not awful, and a couple of the tunes are proper belters, but often they are hollow and forgettable and this is a huge shame.
Had Jingle Jangle nailed its soundtrack, with crowd pleasing music akin to say, The Greatest Showman (2017), then I would be opening this review on a far more positive note. Instead I can only say that to begin with the songs almost soured me on this movie, and I nearly turned it off after 30 minutes.
But I didn’t switch off the film, and I am glad that I stuck with it, because moving beyond the early musical misfires, this film – and eventually the songs – found a groove that worked. In fact, as Jingle Jangle shifted towards the latter half of the story, not only did the songs improve, my appreciation for the picture also increased – and especially when it came to the visuals.
Boy oh boy, is this movie gorgeous. It is as if the director blended Oliver! (1968), with Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971), mixed in a dash of Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium (2007), then dipped the concoction in a Marks & Spencer Christmas advert.
The sheer amount of joy I got from just soaking up the visuals in this film is difficult to quantify. So much is thrown at the screen, so much detail layered into each scene, that the whole thing felt like a fondant-filled dream world.
The lighting, the costumes, the set design – all of it is superb. I challenge anyone to find fault with the look of this movie.
If you simply want something that screams Christmas, then Jingle Jangle is for you. It is a warm hug on a snow-covered day, wrapped in tinsel and tied off with a bow.
But it’s not just the visuals that work, the cast are also brilliant. Not one single actor feels out of place or miscast and young actress, Madalen Mills, who plays the role of the toy maker’s granddaughter, is just excellent.
So, with so much working for it, even after those initial bumps in the road, I loved this movie, right? No.
While there are large parts of the film that I really, really, really liked, I never felt as invested in the picture as I know I should have been. Even if I ignored the problems with the songs, the story just felt too empty, and that is never a good thing when there is a two-hour runtime to fill.
Had 30-minutes been trimmed from this picture, then the light-weight narrative wouldn’t have stuck out like a sore thumb. But as it stands, there is a little bit too much padding and this derails things.
Ultimately, Jingle Jangle is a well put-together, fine to watch, and certainly not offensive Christmas movie… which is so-so. The production design is stellar, but the story and the music are underwhelming.
For me, Jingle Jangle is the sort of movie that you stumble across on a Saturday afternoon on ITV2. You miss the first hour, you’re not entirely sure what’s going on in the second, but you leave it playing and by the end you feel you have seen enough.
Enjoy the incredible beauty of the sets and the costumes, marvel at the cast, but don’t worry too much about the rest. Stick it on while you wrap your presents or decorate your tree and you’ll have a good time.
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