Twelve Movies Moving – Fifth Day: Jingle All The Way

Jingle All The Way (1996)


*Spoilers Throughout*

What’s It About: Workaholic Salesman/Bodybuilder Howard has repeatedly let down his young son and wife, making mattress sales his top priority. When he fails again to see his son Jamie’s karate class when Jamie is awarded his blue belt, Howard tries to smooth it over with his son to get him the much sought-after Turbo-Man action figure. Now Jamie is obsessed with Turbo-Man and this is evident by the posters on the wall, his pajamas, the breakfast cereal and the film even opens with Jamie watching a Turbo-Man show on TV, but his “dad” doesn’t even know he likes Turbo-Man even though that’s all the kid talks about, eats and breathes. Turbo-Man is probably the second lamest superhero after Aquaman. Captain Planet is more interesting to me. Turbo-Man is a guy with a bright red and yellow suit with a jet pack. That’s it. And he’s all the rage in 1996. This is a good indication of what we’re in for with this terrible Christmas movie.

I'm your Turbo Lover. Tell me there's no other. Any Judas Priest fans out there?

Howard is excited that Jamie is happy with him (again, even though he’s a dead-beat) and can’t wait to get him that action figure. His wife reminds him that she asked him to get that doll a month ago but he lies and says that he already got it two weeks ago. She also remarks that it is THE HOTTEST toy this Christmas and that it’s good he already purchased it because it will be hard as hell to get one now. Howard of course panics and the next day, Christmas Eve, he lies and says he has to get something from the office and runs to the nearest toy store. Both his wife and son remind him of the annual Christmas parade that he misses every year and that he should partake with them this year. He promises he’ll be there.

On the way to his car Howard runs into his obnoxious neighbor, Ted (Phil Hartman), with a real life reindeer that he got as a surprise for his son. Ted is very over the top and do-goody when it comes to Christmas and devotion to his son, contrary to Howard. Suffice to say, Howard hates Ted. Well now the conflict of the film gets underway as Howard joins the angry throng of ne’er-do-wells all rushing to get last-minute gifts for their kids at the toy store. While everyone is waiting for the store to open, Howard meets wacky postal worker Myron, played by Sinbad, who is also after a Turbo-Man. As soon as the store opens the mob rushes in and fights their way to the toys. When only Turbo-Man’s sidekick Booster is available, Howard asks two stockboys where Turbo-Man is, and they laugh heartily at his expense. When Howard physically threatens them they tell him that a lady who had one on layaway just picked it up and left. Howard starts to run out of the store but Myron hits him down with his hefty postal bag. Howard retaliates with an RC car that trips Myron, then Howard finds the lady but fails at his attempt to stop her in her car.

You know one of these days my comedy career will really take off!

Next is a montage of Howard running to each toy store in the Twin Cities area to find a lousy Turbo-Man. Meanwhile, Ted is infringing on Howard’s home, “helping” Howard’s wife, Liz, bake holiday cookies. It’s painfully obvious that divorcee Ted is attempting to hit on Liz. Even the late great Phil Hartman can’t work with this 2-dimensional, poorly written character. Howard meets up again with Myron, who offers a truce as well as an alliance to find a Turbo-Man together. With a limited supply of said action figure I can’t imagine this alliance working out, but Howard declines Myron’s offer anyway. At this moment other desperate parents in search for a Turbo-Man run to their cars telling everyone that a late shipment of the action figure is arriving at a toy store in The Mall Of America. Well off they go to the city-state that is the biggest indoor mall in the country. There, the store is holding a lottery for dibs on the figures. Numbered balls are handed out, but when the mob gets unruly the stock boys throw all the balls into the crowd with Howard, Myron and other parents fighting over these bouncy balls. When the ball Howard was chasing falls into the hands of a small child, Howard goes to the max in creepiness to get his ball, even going so far as to try to snatch the ball from the kid’s mouth. When the mother attacks Howard for touching her kid he quickly gives up and finds his way over to Jim Belushi who’s playing a typical mall Santa. At first this is great because its a Red Heat reunion, but both Schwarzenegger and Belushi are has-beens by this point in their careers and as much a fan as I was of Ahnuld in my youth, by 1996 this reunion is too-little, too-late.

I'm still proud of K-9, you got a problem with that?

Belushi propositions Howard that he can get him a Turbo-Man. Howard suspects that he’s being scammed but Belushi convinces him to drive him to some run-down warehouse. This warehouse is a haven for lowlife mall Santas and elves who make cheap toy knockoffs. Why they are all still dressed as Santas and elves is never explained but I think it’s just a poor sight gag, especially when one of the Santas is a very small midget and later on we see a really huge Santa, who is even bigger a bodybuilder than Ahnuld. When the Turbo-Man doll that Belushi “sells” Howard turns out to be broken and speaks only in Spanish, Howard demands his money back. When Belushi refuses a brawl breaks out and finally action-star Ahnuld has an action scene. Well, sorta. He manages to beat most of the underling Santas, including a comically martial arts Santa that has candy cane nun-chucks. Then he meets his match with the huge behemoth Santa played by Paul Wight. When the Santa gang get the upperhand on Howard, the police raid the warehouse. Howard manages to use a cheap plastic police badge to pose as a police officer to escape the law.


While taking a much needed break at a run-down diner, Howard calls his house to speak to his wife but Jamie, talking about Ted’s reindeer pisses off Howard and the dead-beat that he is yells at Jamie. Depressed and sullen Howard trades Dad stories with Myron who also happens to be at that diner at that same time. Just then they both hear a radio station contest that if the next caller correctly names every one of Santa’s reindeer they win a Turbo-Man. Both Howard and Myron fight to use the pay phone in the diner but the diner owner tells them that the radio station is just a few blocks away. Howard easily outraces Myron to the radio station and waltzes right to the deejay booth with no resistance at all. Well except for the glass door for the booth, which he destroys so he can answer the trivia question. But not before the deejay, played by Martin Mull, calls the police. Even though Howard has the right answer he cannot get the action figure, not because he’s essentially breaking and entering but the fact that the doll isn’t in the radio station but would be shipped to the winner at a later date. But that’s all moot anyway as Myron threatens both the D.J. and Howard with a bomb in a box that he happens to carry with him in his parcel bag. I know this is a lame kids’ movie but just the fact that anyone would believe that anyone could carry a bag with a bomb in it is just plain stupid. But both Mull and Howard believe this ruse and so do most of the police when they arrive on the scene. Myron and Howard manage to flee the scene when they leave the bomb with the police but one officer doesn’t believe its a real bomb. Well as dumb as this sounds it actually is a bomb and when they hear the explosion in the distance even Myron admits he didn’t think it was a bomb but just a random box in his bag. But it’s OK because even though it exploded, all those cops, including the one who opened it are alive but with ash and soot on them just like as if a bomb went off in a Warner Brothers cartoon.

A failed and miserable Howard comes back to his home but before he enters his house, he notices Ted putting the star on top of HIS tree!! THAT’S HOWARD’S THING!!!! Howard, infuriated, runs over to Ted’s house because he remembers that Ted told him earlier that he got his son a Turbo-Man and it’s under his tree. Howard breaks into Ted’s house and steals the Turbo-Man but comes to his senses before he leaves the house. But it’s too late as Howard comes face-to-face with Ted’s reindeer who attacks him and destroys most of Ted’s house in the process. Howard is caught red-handed by Liz and Ted when a flaming head of one of the Wise Men is kicked out of the house. Liz scolds Howard HARD, giving him the full guilt-trip and leaves Howard alone in Ted’s house when they leave to go to the parade. Makes sense. Leave the guy who broke in your home, tried to steal your son’s toy, trashed the house and almost burnt it down. But I suppose he’s not going to do anything else in the house after they leave right? RIGHT! Wrong. The reindeer then crashes through yet another door and then Howard knocks the deer out cold with a right hook. I guess in all the craziness they all forgot about the half-ton caribou roaming around in the house.

Liz, Ted and the kids then forget all about Howard and go to this Christmas Eve parade. Howard meanwhile is hanging outside Ted’s house with the reindeer and feeding it beer. This is still a kids’ movie right? Do kids find inebriated animals funny? Anyway, Howard stops feeling sorry for himself that he’s such a terrible dad, husband and moral person and decides to make it up to his whole family. BY GOING TO THE PARADE!!!

This diminishes about 87% of the good credit he earned as a Terminator

At the parade, Ted tries to take advantage of a very vulnerable and distraught Liz, just moments after a fight with her husband. Liz, disgusted by Ted’s advances, hits him over the face with a thermos of hot cocoa. But don’t worry, no one ever gets hurt in this film…Ted’s OK. He learned his lesson. Howard meanwhile has made it to the parade and has to run to escape police capture from the same cop that’s been giving him trouble all movie (I didn’t bring this sub-plot up before because I already wrote too much on this crappy movie already). He manages to outrun the cop and hides in a nearby building. However, someone in the building mistakes Howard as the stuntman/actor who’s supposed to play Turbo-Man in the parade! So now Howard is on a float with Booster (played by Booger from Revenge of the Nerds) and he’s having a ball! He seriously forgot all about his woes with his family and basically being a fugitive from the law and now breaking another law by falsely playing Turbo-Man. They never went into detail of who was supposed to play Turbo-Man and how pissed he might’ve been missing his great opportunity. Whatever. Howard is even more delighted that he now sees his son having a great time seeing his hero in the flesh on a parade float. But to top it off Howard gets to pick a lucky kid to join him on the float and also win a free Turbo-Man action figure!!!! Guess who Howard picks.

This scene has two really odd things in it that trouble me greatly. One is the Turbo-Man action figure. He’s basically 14″ to 18″ tall. That’s not an action figure worth having really. I never understood the appeal of a huge action figures that are uncommonly sized in comparison to the other 99% of the action figures on the market. Plus an 18″ doll is way too large to manipulate for a 5-year-olds hands! It’s just plain dumb thinking. The other thing that bugged me was there was a shot of the parade from a distance and in the corner of the screen there’s a police float. And on this float is a trampoline with a cop doing somersaults. Huh? Why?! Why would there be a cop bouncing on a trampoline in a parade float? Why would a cop be bouncing on a trampoline anywhere? It’s so absurd and weird to see this in a movie. This was not a real parade either but one made specifically for this movie and according to Wikipedia, took three weeks to film with over 1,500 extras. That means they planned to have a cop on a trampoline on film. I should have mentioned earlier that this film was directed by Brian Levant, who before this film directed the live-action Flintstones, Beethoven and Problem Child 2. Jingle All the Way was nominated for a Razzie for worst director. I’d hate to see what DID win the Razzie for worst director that year. I should save me the trouble and time by stopping this review right now. But if I do I won’t be able to tell you about the worst part yet.


I’ll keep this short. Turbo-Man’s arch-nemesis is some Brainaic-looking villain. Before the actor playing the villain could join the staged show on this float, Myron assaults him and takes over the role and attacks Jamie and Howard to get the toy. He chases Jamie off the float and up a nearby building while Howard fights off the villain’s minions. To save his son, Howard must become Turbo-Man by activating the really functional jet pack on his back and fly up to stop Jamie from falling off a roof. After a few false starts and wild flying he saves the day, his marriage and his relationship with his son. Jamie is the real hero though, who decides that Myron should get the action figure, even though he’s going to jail, because he has a real-life Turbo-Man at home. That little bastard gave up the ONE THING that Howard risked his life, sanity, and marriage all day for. Merry Effing Christmas!

Is it Actually Jolly: I can’t think of another Christmas-themed movie that shows the trials and tribulations of parents going through hell to get that ONE HOT toy that every kid has to get. Back in the days before the internet made these hardships pretty much null and void, this was the usual spiel for parents. Cabbage Patch Dolls, The Power Rangers, and Tickle-Me Elmo all drove good parents nuts and probably brought out their dark sides to go to extreme lengths to get that toy for their spoiled brats. Even this year’s Black Friday had occurrences of people getting trampled and even pepper-sprayed. So it’s a good topic for a Christmas Movie. Too bad it’s this movie. And why Ahnuld is cast in this movie is beyond me. This was the start of the decline of his career. The movie before this one that he starred in was Junior and after Jingle All The Way he has yet to make a decent movie. I was elated he became governor of California and hasn’t acted since 2003. He’s not funny ever. He, like DeNiro, are only funny when they aren’t trying to be funny. But this movie, despite having a really nice Christmas look, feel and tone is just one terribly acted and developed movie, even for kids.


Jolliest Moment: The only scene worth remembering is the fight scene. I can’t imagine they hired Ahnuld just because the script had a fight scene between Howard and dozens of Santa’s. But anyway it’s the only time I enjoyed a modicum of this movie. It actually made me crack a small smile when the ninja Santa breaks out his candy cane nun-chunks and when the huge Santa comes out and takes off his Santa coat to fight Howard one-on-one. I’m not sure if that was to give homage to Raiders of the Lost Ark and the fight scene between Indy and the German outside the runway, who also takes off his shirt to fight. I’m probably giving Levant WAAAAAAAY too much credit with that last sentence. I cannot believe I put Raiders in the same review as Jingle All The Way.

Dumbest Moment: Two-way tie between the bomb scene with the cops and the finale with the Turbo-Man jet pack scene. Both are ludicrous even by kids’ movie standards. I think if I had to choose one I’d have to go with the bomb scene because a bomb goes off that rattles the building from the exterior shot and yet every officer standing 2 feet from the bomb is not even scratched. Its akin to a cartoon explosive cigar that leaves a blackened face after the explosion. That’s all. The cop holding he bomb we meet up later chasing Howard and his hands are bandaged up but otherwise he’s totally functional. This cartoon style violence is way out of place in a movie like this and angers me to the core. Before this scene everything happening in the film is truly based in reality. Nothing crazy or something that needs a huge suspension of disbelief other than the release of the movie to the masses. Then this cartoon bomb goes off and the whole movie goes way off the rails. I was just bored to tears before the bomb but now I’m growing increasingly uptight about it.

Looked funny on paper...

Overall: Ahnuld lost his luster by the mid-90s. Sinbad never had any. Hartman may have been a comical genius and he is still sorely missed but his movie roles were least to be desired. This was the first movie for Jake Lloyd, who further pissed off movie-goers when he played Anakin Skywalker in the Phantom Menace three years later. He retired from acting in 2001 at the ripe age of 12. I mentioned earlier that this was nominated for a directing Razzie that year and I won’t bore you with the other films Levant directed since this film, but suffice to say you probably never seen them. The best thing I remember about this film back in the late ’90s was when they spoofed Ahnuld on Conan O’Brien promoting this film disaster even years after it was released. This YouTube clip is 100X more entertaining than the entire Jingle All the Way.

Score: 2 (out of 10)

One thought on “Twelve Movies Moving – Fifth Day: Jingle All The Way

  1. Pingback: Today’s Headlines presented by Killer Gene Shalit! 2-12-2014 | Hard Ticket to Home Video

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