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Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey

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When Journey asks her grandpa  his plans for Christmas Day, he responds: Re-reading Solzhenitsyn’s One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich.”

Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey is a whole lot of holiday foolishness. I believe it was intended to be entertaining “for the whole family.” If you like musicals with forgettable songs, this hits the target. And rest assured that it will be rather boring for both you and the kids. Still, it’s jam-packed with festivity, singing and dancing, so it  could serve as good background while you and the kids are semi-engaged with other activities.  

Academy Award winner Forest Whitaker is Jeronicus Jangle, the premier toy maker in the quasi-Victorian era town of Cobbleton. We first meet Jeronicus as a handsome and energetic young man with a wife and young daughter, Jessica. Besides making money hand over fist, he mentors a bumbling wannabe toy inventor, Gustafson.

Since Jeronicus is the greatest toy maker in the land, his shop is always chockful of customers dancing and doing flips while he sings up a storm. At night, when his toy store is closed, Jeronicus labors over his greatest work. Success! Jeronicus unveils his creation to the family.  Far from delightful, it’s Frankensteinian; a Barbie-sized matador that moves about and talks in the voice of Ricky Martin. The thing quickly reveals itself to be a narcissistic sociopath. An evil doll–such holiday merriment!

The matador overhears Jangle’s idea to colonize the world with other matadors, rushing the land to biblical end days. The matador doesn’t want to be mass-produced. He quickly homes in on Gustafson and his weak moral compass, convincing him to steal Jeronicus’ toy blueprints. Gustafson runs off, absconding with the plans and his own personal devil-on-the-shoulder, in the form of the matador.

Apparently Cobbleton has no copyright laws because Jeronicus quickly goes broke. He loses his mojo, falling into a depression that no Cobbleton pharmaceuticals can touch.  Meanwhile Gustafson –played as an older man by Keegan-Michael Key — becomes a toy magnate and we see him singing a boastful tune about his magnificence.

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Jeronicus Jangle models a coat from his “Jingle Jangle Winter Collection”

Jeronicus ages into Forest Whitaker who has turned into a mournful pawnbroker who has bitterly sworn off inventing. Forest mutters some lines here and there and sings a self-pitying tune as the mopey Jeronicus. I sighed to think of  an actor of his caliber in this dumb production, but then I  recalled how Robert DeNiro will take any role for the right price and thought, eh, why not Forest too? And I almost felt sorry for Mr. Key in his ludicrous role, considering what his former comedy partner Jordan Peele is accomplishing as an award winning writer and director of cerebral horror films. But no one made him take this role. Unless his agent is an evil doll.   And I wanted to like the musical because the talented John Legend (who, unfortunately for us didn’t do the music) was one of the producers. Alas, his video for “All of Me” stands as his best work. Same for Chrissy Teigen.

So… since Jingle Jangle is supposed to appeal to kids, before too long the musical shifts its focus to Jeronicus’ granddaughter, Journey. She is played by Madalen Mills. I am not a monster, so I have nothing bad to say about her because she can really sing and because she is a child. She displays a lot of verve, whether she is hurling a snowball at her grandfather during a snowball fight set to a calypso tune or singing her heart out, poised on the second storey eaves while she is supposed to be inside sleeping on a couch in the pawn shop.

As Christmas nears, Journey spends her days trying to engage with her grandfather. However, Jeronicus is too distracted by his  landlord (Hugh Bonneville of Downton Abbey) who is set to evict him for unpaid rent, and the unwelcome flirtations of the local letter carrier (Lisa Davina Phillip).  The letter carrier should really be dismissed from her job since she opens Jeronicus’ mail and even belts out a ditty about how thirsty she is for Jeronicus as she partially disrobes and disrespects his personal space.

By night Journey flounces around the pawn shop on some sort of caffeine high, singing and pawing through her grandfather’s  old toy inventions. She also wants to reconcile her mom and grandpa who drifted apart as a result of his  nihilism and disengagement from parental obligations. (Early in the movie, Mrs. Jangle died. This info is conveyed through animated wooden figurines and it’s unclear how she passed, but entirely possible that she caught a fatal case of melancholia from her husband.) The script actually has a bull***t moment where we are supposed to excuse Jeronicus’ lack of communication with his adult daughter because he has a bureau full of letters that he never sent her. Much like Jeronicus, the movie overlooks  Jessica, but at least the film makers give her a few minutes of screen time singing a song that is meant to convey some poignancy.

Ok, so, clocking in at two hours with about a half an hour worth of story the musical chugs along including: a cute robot who looks like WALL-E, Jeronicus floating around like Mary Poppins, kids sledding towards a giant fan, and the bizarre assertion that if only you “believe” this will power your electric products.  Oh, and plenty of jotting math equations in the air to find the “square root of the possible.”

See, I told you there was a lot of holiday foolishness! 

Movie Loon Movie Review Shortcut:

Grade:   C-

Cut to the Chase:  A mediocre musical, but kids might like it for the flashy spectacle.

Humor Highlight:  Forest Whitaker’s somnolent take on Jeronicus.

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