This Christmas Season (because Christmas begins in November now I guess) there is a new Christmas film coming to Netflix. Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey stars Forest Whitaker, Keegan-Michael Key, Ricky Martin and introduces Madalen Mills.
As the film opens we are greeted by two kids arguing overseeing something in the fireplace. Their grandmother comes in and decides to squash this beef by telling them a Christmas story that they apparently need to know about.
The film then moves to a quaint magical land where a young inventor known as Jeronicus Jangle and his family are at work creating his greatest work. His greatest work strangely turns out to be a sentient toy matador (Ricky Martin, hamming it up).
Hoping to mass-produce the toy and cement financial stability for his family he goes off and celebrates with his wife and daughter leaving his toy in the hands of his ambitious assistant. Egged on by the toy (it’s so weird) to steal Jeronicus’ journal of inventions as well as take the toy with him, Gustafson steals away into the night.
Without his greatest invention and journal and feeling utterly betrayed the magic leaves Jeronicus. Fast-forward three decades and Jeronicus (now played by Forest Whitaker) has lost everything, his wife, his daughter and soon his store. There is however hope on the horizon for him, his granddaughter Journey (Mills) and so begins Journey’s Christmas journey, get it?
If you enjoyed that level of wit then you may adore Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey. It is a simplistic Christmas adventure with all too familiar tropes within it.
Set in a world of magic, science and steampunk
Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey is set in a steampunk world filled with magic and science. It is also a world filled to the brim with music. Within the first 50 minutes of this 2-hour film, there were already 6 songs. It got quite distracting as it took too long for me to attach myself to the characters. The reason being that each song was the introduction of a character and giving their position in the status quo. It felt somewhat amateurish.
There is also the majority of the cast giving incredibly over the top performances. The character at the centre of it was Ricky Martin’s toy matador Don Juan Diego.
Whenever he is on screen he is ripping the scenery apart with his teenie tiny teeth. Someone who should have been joining him was on his onscreen partner Gustafson. Unfortunately Key is sleepwalking through his performance. It’s a shame because when he’s over the top he’s usually great.
A different kind of Christmas story surrounded by predictable tropes
Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey’s story is predictable. You know exactly where Journey and Jeronicus will end up as they try to connect as estranged family members do in these feel-good Christmas films. You know the beats, she’s the whiz full of magic and wonder that is something Jeronicus is sorely missing.
What makes this element of the film work so well are the performances of both Whitaker and Mills. They have an excellent rapport, Whitaker in particular adds a surprising level of gravitas to this film which at times is at odds with the silliness of the rest of the film.
Mills shines not just as an actor but also a performer. Her singing is phenomenal as well as her dancing. On that note, the musical performances are well choreographed and if this was a play I believe they would work far better. The sets are intricate and the costume design is stunning. The best part of Key’s presence in this film was whenever he entered a scene he had a completely new luxurious outfit.
Ultimately Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey is a fun film. It’s bogged down by poor characterization, some poor acting and predictability but it is saved by its two leads and their engaging relationship.
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