PG...because there's a bad guy? I'm not really sure where the questionable content is. Like with Up, the protagonist's wife dies, but that is told mostly through narrator's exposition. There's one moment where the kids are being chased down by the bad guys and are imperiled, but that's pretty minor on the grand scheme of things and their escape has a degree of whimsy to it. I don't know, man. It seems like this only got the PG rating over the G because it is live-action. Lazy MPAA, man. Lazy em-pee-aye-AYE! PG.
DIRECTOR: David E. Talbert
It's another one of the movies that I should have paid more attention to. Again, I consider this a personal failure of mine. I watched the whole movie, but my kids weren't exactly behaving during this film. Also, I was trying to get my steps in, so I was doing chores while watching. I know. Out there somewhere, David Lynch is cursing my name for not being the appropriate movie goer. I didn't watch it on my [expletive deleted] phone or anything, but I wasn't enjoying it as I should. Because this movie looked great. Like, it looked absolutely amazing. So take everything critical I have to say about this movie with a grain of salt, because I wasn't exactly watching with the most critical eye.
I have a feeling that Jingle Janglemight not have been originally planned to be a Netflix release. My old theory behind Netflix releases were that they tended to be cheaper than cinema releases. I mean, I know that Wonder Woman 1984 is coming to HBO Max on Christmas Day, but that's only because of coronavirus. I want to somewhat tweak my original theory. Streaming services are allowed to have second tier big budget movies, except when it comes to Christmas fare, which tend to be as cheap as you can make them. I know that Netflix tends to throw more money at their Christmas outings than Hallmark, but the quality still matches the rom-com versions of sci-fi's original programming, namely stuff like Sharknado. (I have this whole ranking system in my head that places Sharknado in the same production and quality category as anything on Hallmark. There's almost something ironically bad about both, yet I encourage people to enjoy what they enjoy...assuming that they're consuming quality as well. They're both the brand X version of Little Debbie, but maybe try a vegetable once in a while?) But there's nothing cheap about this. This feels fresh and crafted. It's not just a Christmas movie, but it's a musical. And, I know, Disney Channel makes all kinds of cheap musicals. But this is cinematic and the dancing is off the walls amazing. It's really a quality thing and I wasn't prepped for that. Honestly, I didn't even know it was a musical. I knew that they got Forrest Whittaker and that they had some impressive cameras, but that's about all the points I was going to give it before I came in. No part of me was thinking that I was going to get a big budget Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dickensian Apparel.
But I also noticed that a lot of the reviews for this weren't amazing. I mean, they were watching the same movie I (kind of) was, right? I mean, those actors that I never heard of had to be professional Broadway stars, right? They had to be. I mean, the singing in this was amazing. The choreography was nuts. The songs were pretty darned catchy. What was I missing? And then I thought about it. It's not insane to think that this movie didn't resonate with a lot of people. It's kind of because it never really hits the next level. The movie, for its amazing cast and performances, kind of lacks in story. We've seen this story before. On top of that, we've seen this story at Christmas. And because it is Netflix, our minds kind of treat it as disposable. For whatever changes that they made, the movie really kind of is just A Christmas Carol coupled with The Mighty Ducks. Jeronicus Jangle has this really impressive talent for making toys, but because of hardships and cruelty, has lost his Christmas spirit. While we don't have ghosts, there is magic in this world. It should be noted that I'm lo-key obsessed with "A Christmas Carol", so much so that I have to shift out of the italics and into quotation marks to acknowledge that it is a short story.
See, as much as the ghosts make a direct impact on Scrooge, it is really the people in his life that he begins to understand more clearly. The same thing holds true with Jingle Jangle. (I hate the title. Can't stand it.) This is a world of magic, but the magic isn't what changes Jeronicus; it just helps him see the world differently. So when people aren't exactly shocked by the plot, I can kind of see it. He used to be happy and is not, so we know that by the end of the story, he will be happy again. There's a little girl who has the same talents that he used to have? We know that she will serve as a reminder of his childhood. He will be hurtful to her before he becomes helpful to her later. The toy doesn't work now, but it will work later. There's nothing that comes across as a surprise in the movie. I think that's kind of what people are looking for in Christmas movies, but I think I like a little bit of dip-and-dodge in there before getting my results. I look at last year's Klaus, also released by Netflix. Yeah, things ended up being where they were supposed to be, but the movie offered some real threats to the problem being solved. It also offered a new Christmas origin. Instead, we kind of got what we were expecting with Jingle Jangle when it came to story.
And because I love picking apart weird moral choices, I want to look at the morally complex narrative of Don Juan Diego. This is the animatronic toy created by Jeronicus. He acts as the inciting incident for the piece. When he gains sentience, he acts as the antagonist for the film. Jeronicus Jangle created this toy and wanted to give the world this toy. From his perspective, he is living the capitialist's dream. He has a product that brings him joy and will also support his family. He sees his job as a noble profession that also allows him to be creative and leave a sum goal of other people's happiness. Yeah, if you just focus on Jeronicus, it definitely makes Don Juan Diego the bad guy of the story. After all, Don Juan takes away Jeronicus's drive and success story. He can't trap lightning twice, so the goal that Jeronicus starts off with fizzles. But Don Juan actually has a far more noble goal involving sentient rights. The reason we don't sympathize with him, by the way, is because he's a jerk. Honestly, if he didn't act like a jerk, this would be a story about a toy who has sentience forced upon him and then every choice in his life is the product of other's temporary happiness. He's sentient. That's very clear. He rises up against his creator and asks to make choices that are his own. He doesn't want to be copied and cloned. It may be selfish to be the only sentient toy, but he should have the rights as all sentient creatures. The idea that he will lose all specialness and value because there will be a million of him is actually his choice to make. When Buddy comes around later with a seemingly diminished sentience, Buddy is okay with that choice. While I may have problems with the idea of a creator intentionally bestowing a neutered sense of sentience, I'll let it go under the auspices that it wasn't a conscious choice on the part of Jeronicus to do so. Don Juan didn't want to be part of a lower caste system underneath humans, so he rejected the plan to be copied. It gave him authority and value and that kind of makes sense.
Which is what makes Don Juan's punishment especially cruel. Jeronicus never really learns the lesson that Don Juan's revolution should give him. As much of an ego that Don Juan has (which isn't a crime, but just sucks), he really does act out of fear. Instead of respecting Don Juan's wishes, he kind of goes A Clockwork Orange on him, stripping him of his free will. Don Juan is never really given the opportunity for redemption as much as he is simply wiped away. It kind of is a death sentence for simply choosing not to be copied and pasted a million times, which is his right. It's a really dark moment. I honestly thought, similarly, that there should have been redemption for Gustafson, who was clearly a pawn in Don Juan's plan. Yeah, Gustafson enjoys the fruits of his sin, but also feels misunderstood by Jeronicus, who apparently has a hard time communicating his true intentions. Maybe the movie wanted to have a cathartic moment by having the bad guys punished. But it is Christmas? What happened to forgiveness? Jeronicus is forgiven by both is daughter, but also by his granddaughter. His debt is forgiven quickly by the bank when they realize that Buddy is going to sell well. Is the meaning of Christmas based on financial success? There's a lot of things that I have problem with in that ending, but I kind of get why they did it.
Yeah, it's not fair that I'm writing about something that only got half of my attention. I'm going to have to figure out how to watch stuff while walking, because I need to get my steps up. Regardless, this seemed quality while potentially avoiding moral grey areas.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.