This is the season for new movies, at least it used to be before the virus hit. What normally would be a busy Friday night has turned into scarce pickings over streaming and trying to keep up with the idea of specials that these sites are loading out. Tonight though, I managed to catch the early seasonal film, an attempt to get a Christmas spirit going in hopes your little ones will catch the magic of the holidays. So, what do I think of the latest direct to stream film? Please read on to hear my thoughts as I review.
Movie: Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey
Director: David E. Talbert Writer: David E. Talbert Stars: Forest Whitaker, Keegan-Michael Key, Hugh Bonneville
The Cute/Charm of the movie The Costumes The Setting/Effects To make the Setting The Storytelling CGI at parts The Messages The Music
The Rushed Opening The Lack of Christmas Energy The Lack of Suspense The Story is Weak AT a lot of parts Too In your Face/Preachy
I give Talbert and his crew props for crafting a tale that feels much like a children’s novel meant to inspire and ignite the dreams of the young. Jingle Jangle is a movie with all the trimmings and charm that feels like it came out of Disney or Nick Jr. studios. Very little darkness, very little dismay, the diluted hard knock lives only act as a means to ignite the spark of hope that this movie carries with it. The inspiration of hope, creativity, and belief are strong messages in this film and you can be sure those who love their Hallmark and young adult films will get caught up in the aura this movie unleashes. In regards to the manner it tells this story, that is my favorite part at this stage of my life and where I think the movie does things quite well. Costumes bring you into the Christmas Story vibe as a much more ethnically mixed cast shows off the designs and brings you into world Talbert wants to build. Settings using stage pieces and CGI take that journey one step forward, but mixing in a bit of fantasy clockwork that the Nutcracker made a few years ago that is intriguing to see. Regardless the world building is rather impressive, and other movies can be seen as the inspiration for the direction they chose. Amidst the different acts, a nice telling using clockwork robots is used to fill in the interluding space, again capturing the charm of a Christmas specialty shop I visited when I was younger. It’s a nice twist in style that I appreciate, though maybe it did get a tad overused.. However, the real wow factor for this movie’s presentation is the songs that come with it. While not as diverse, Jingle Jangle’s soundtrack reminded me much of The Greatest Showman. Wailing orchestral music combines with hip hop, funk, and classical to make a toe tapping ordeal with numbers that are both motivating to get up and dance and also emotionally layered as well. The opening number in particular was one of my favorites, and a middle number as well hit the spot, while others serve to be whacky and entertaining for all ages. Like many of the modern day musicals, lots of time and resources went into this element, and I believe some story sacrifices were seen to load the 2 hours with as much music as possible. If that’s your angle, this movie should be number one on your spot this weekend, if not, well read on to hear my limitations with the film.
A strong opening that promised magic and a true Christmas adventure, quickly become rushed, musical numbers overshadowing the story and character development at many parts of the movie. Never did I feel this more than the opening where so much set up was cast into an interlude in order to fast forward to where our younger cast could make a splash so to speak. It seems during this rushed opening where villains and supporting characters quickly got crammed in and swept aside that the Christmas components also got lost, dropped into the pre spirit visit of Scrooge’s life and not really escaping this until the very end. The movie sort of diverges from even the Christmas error, instead becoming more towards rival toymakers, greed, and some inventing components similar to Hugo meeting Wall-E’s designs so to speak. Was it cute? Yes, quite adorable, but I don’t know if I would call this a Christmas Journey, more than journey for self-growth near the end of the year. In addition, the suspense and challenges we see in movies (Santa on trial in Miracle on 3rth street, Home Alone’s Kevin defending his home from robbers, or even the Rugrats trying to trap Santa in the chimney) were missing in this film.. A few challenges and test of character, Jingle Jangle trades real development of threat and ingenuity to solve problems for more musical numbers, feel good monologues, and kid friendly slapstick for lack of a better word. It leads to sort of a haphazard story that is a bit weak for my tastes and loses the collective picture I think we all look for in the seasonal films. And perhaps the worst of all… it feels like a sappy, political, Facebook post when trying to deliver its messages. Again inspiration, but I agree too much that it misses the mark of a truly motivational movie for another filler meant to be added to the collection of the streaming movies, but again if that speaks to you, you should have no qualms with the film.
Given what passes for Christmas movies these days in a world of mass produced generic films, Jingle Jangle stands out in several departments. It’s got the charm and magic of a kid’s imagination that the season is about, with costumes, CGI, and setting that finally took me back to my childhood. Throw in some toe tapping numbers and some cool storytelling effects and you once again add points for raising the positive factor for the season. However, the movie is again about the superficial entertainment pieces and misses the full cohesiveness that several classics have maintained from over twenty years ago. The story is nonsensical and not much of the Christmas direction it promised, and the film’s pass on adventure did not quite keep me as engaged as the opening number did. Still above all else, it’s going to serve as an inspiration to a number of families and given it’s accessibility is perfect for a direct release at home. Given the thoughts, the ideal is for those with young families, primarily ages 3-12 who like the song and dance gimmicks and not so much about complete stories.
My scores for the film are:
Family/Fantasy/Musical: 7.0 (Family/musical themes) Movie Overall: 6.0
Review by rgkarim