It seems to be generally accepted that most Christmas films, Die Hard aside, are only ironically enjoyed. Most of that enjoyment comes from growing up with the limited selection of Christmas-themed movies. I grew up with the likes of Home Alone (the first and second) and A Muppet Christmas Carol, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, Scrooged, A Christmas Story, and I was just on the late side of the scale for The Santa Clause. I love these movies, all of them, unashamedly in the cases where shame is actually warranted.
If The Santa Clause came just before my switch to moody, miserable teenager, Jingle All the Way came just after it. I have no fond memories of it. I’ve seen it, but probably not in 15 years. This was a lame Christmas movie for the lamestain generation after mine. But could I, too, enjoy it in some way if I applied myself?
Released at the same time that the country was undergoing a deep and uncontrollable Tickle Me Elmo mood swing, Jingle sees Arnold Schwarzenegger as a typical American dad (suspension of disbelief engaged…) who missed out on his son Jamie’s (Young Anakin Skywalker Jake Lloyd) karate purple belt ceremony. To make up for being a shit father, he decides to buy the kid a TurboMan action figure, a toy that he was already supposed to have bought weeks ago on his wife’s (Rita Wilson) instruction. Meanwhile, a super-grabby neighbor played by Phil Hartman makes a play for the neglected Rita Wilson, as Arnie and mailman Sinbad run around town trying to track down the universally sold out toy.
It’s a bad film, of course it is. So is The Santa Clause. So is Home Alone. I’d remembered it in scraps as an awful, safe, Disneyfied cornball triumph story, but re-watching it, it’s a lot saucier than I remembered.
The film basically starts off with a series of Phil Hartman dick jokes, and moves forward with crazy post office employee jokes (that was a thing in the 90s, remember?), Unabomber and mailbomb jokes, Rodney King jokes, a drunken reindeer, more midget jokes than an 80s WWF fight card, drinking away the pain of a life ruined by bad fathers, an entire chase scene that ends in a pedophile gag setpiece in a ball pit, as well as Young Anakin Skywalker hitting the sauce (he must have seen into his own yippie-destroyed future).
While the film ends in a typical flurry of Hollywood family fluff (aside from Phil Hartman trying to force himself on Rita Wilson and getting El Kabonged with a mug of Egg Nog), those are all jokes at a subterranean Christmas spirit level that I can get firmly behind.
Throw in a seriously impressive set of cameos from Martin Mull, Richard Moll (Bull from Night Court), Yeardley Smith (Lisa Simpson), Laraine Newman, Harvey Korman, Chris Parnell, Danny Woodburn (Mickey from Seinfeld), Paul Wight (aka The Big Show) and Curtis Armstrong (Booger from Revenge of the Nerds), and I found that, yeah, I can actually enjoy this movie. Not wholeheartedly, fully accepting of the WAH-WAAH-WAAAH jokes like I can with The Santa Clause, but it’s enough to work on some level. Enough to make me a Christmastime poseur anyway.