It is hard to believe that "Jingle All the Way" is now a dozen years old. It is even more difficult to believe that the film's star is now the Governor of California and one of the stars of the Republican Party. It isn't too surprising to realize that co-star Sinbad has disappeared and I cannot recall seeing him in too many films since he co-starred in "Jingle All the Way." It is saddening to realize that co-star Phil Hartman was sadly killed not long after this film became a holiday hit and the world is lesser of a place without him helping us to laugh through our daily hardships such as trying to shop for the impossible-to-find toy during the busy holiday season. I haven't watched this picture since the film first debuted on DVD back in November of 1998 and had reviewed the film for another web site at that time. Times have changed, but while careers change and people pass on, "Jingle All the Way" has remained a film that is watched by more than a few people during the holidays.
Howard Langston (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is a hard working father that finds himself continuously becoming too deeply involved with his work and neglecting his relationship with his son (Jake Lloyd, who would go onto player a young Anakin Skywalker). Jamie is once again hurt by his father missing out on promises nearing Christmas when Howard misses his son's Karate meet. Howard does not want to be a bad father and he intends to do better, but just finds himself in the same ruts all of the time. Running late, Howard is stopped by a police officer and does not make the karate practice. Howard disappoints again and is reminded by Jamie that what he really wants for Christmas is a Turbo Man doll and soon is reminded by his wife that he was to have bought one previously. Howard realizes he could return to his son's good graces, but his wife mentions that getting one the day before Christmas would be near impossible.
He lies to his wife and goes out on Christmas Eve day to find the impossible to find toy. Howard must find the toy and get back in time to take his son to the yearly Christmas parade. Howard has already shown that he is a disappointing father and must show his family that he is a good and responsible family. He must not ruin their Christmas and knows he must find a Turbo Man. While searching for the hot item, Howard runs into Myron Larabee (Sinbad), a postal worker on the same agenda; to buy a Turbo Man doll. The two become combatants to gain one of these prized toys and struggle between working together and working totally against each other to find a Turbo Man. Myron and Howard find themselves locked in battle a few times and they find themselves in numerous other tricky situations. It seems certain that only one of them will get a Turbo Man, and they both would do anything to get their hands on one.
Howard gets what looks like a lucky break in the form of a black market mall Santa (James Belushi). This Santa promises that he can sell Howard a Turbo Man for three hundred dollars. Howard agrees and finds himself in a large black market operation ran by a variety of Santa Clauses. Howard also finds himself in a fight with the black market Santas when the Turbo Man sold to him is broken and only speaks Spanish. He almost finds himself in trouble with the law, but swiftly avoids arrest. While Howard is out looking for a Turbo Man, his neighbor Ted Maltin (Phil Hartman, in one of his last roles) is making the moves on his wife and showing Howard's family what a "model" father is like. Ted undermines Howard at any time and is just making Howard's job of satisfying his family that much more difficult. Hartman puts forth a good performance and this alone merits purchasing the film, just to watch a fine comedian in one of his last roles.
I find "Jingle All the Way" to be a quite humorous film and while I won't call it a wonderful holiday movie, it is a good holiday comedy. I'd almost group this film with the first "Gremlins" movie, although that is far more classic and far more memorable. Schwarzenegger and Sinbad make good arch rivals through most of the film and we find Schwarzenegger's character in some very interesting situations. Over the years the muscle-bound hero successfully made the leap into comedy and this was one of his funnier films. Sinbad was always a comedian and this was one of his few successes. During the past few days I have been Christmas shopping and I can remember trying to find hot holiday items. Last year it was the Nintendo Wii. This year, everything was pretty easy to find. Anybody that has gone Christmas shopping can relate to how difficult it can be to find that top gift on a child's list and in doing so, they can relate to the humor contained in this film.
The laughs still come as I watch "Jingle All the Way," but I don't feel the film has stood up as well as some other holiday comedies such as "Home Alone" or "Gremlins." The story feels dated and this is one of those movies that after you've seen it a couple of times the magic begins to fade. It is still fun to watch the Governator bumble his way through toy stores trying to find the toy. Sinbad is now all but forgotten and after watching this film it is easy to understand why. He had his moment and this picture was a big part of it. I do miss Phil Hartman's movies and performance on "Saturday Night Live" and for me, watching him again is the best part of this film. I had recently watched "Home Alone" and that film contains John Candy. The film is still fun and relates to the holiday shopping season, but it just hasn't held up as well as other films and feels dated and less entertaining after seeing it a couple times.
"Jingle All the Way" arrives onto the Blu-ray format via an AVC MPEG-4 compression that provides a good looking transfer for the 1.85:1 framed film. Being only a dozen years old, the source materials are in good shape for the picture and both detail and color are much in line with most other films from the mid Nineties. It isn't as sharp and colorful as more recent films and I feel fairly safe calling this an average looking catalog title. The film is noticeably high definition, but contains only a little more detail than a DVD played through a good upconverter. Black levels are decent. This is still the best looking that "Jingle All the Way" has ever looked, but compared to the better looking films on the format, it isn't anything to get overly excited about. Compared to "Home Alone," another recent ‘Family Fun Edition' release this is slightly better, but that is not saying much.
The 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack provided for "Jingle All the Way" is decent, but the original sound design does not leave too much room for this title to shine for nearly the full length of the film. The big climactic sequence where Arnold becomes Turbo Man provides a little bass for the .1 LFE channel and some decent presence in the rear surrounds, but aside from frantic crowd noises and a few falling shelves of toys, "Jingle All the Way" does not rise over the average comedy film in regards to audio. The classic holiday tunes are nice additions to the soundtrack and the musical score by David Newman sounds clean. Dialogue is very important to the film and the thick accent of Schwarzenegger is never difficult to understand. The disc sounds average and doesn't rise much above the former DVD release in audio. Spanish and French 5.1 Dolby Digital mixes are also provided as well as subtitles in English, Spanish, Cantonese, Korean and Mandarin.
"Jingle All the Way" boots with a plethora of advertisements for other Fox films. "Alvin and the Chipmunks," "Home Alone," "The Fantastic Four," "4: Rise of the Silver Surfer," "Eragon," and "Night at the Museum" play before a menu allows either the Theatrical Version or the Extended Cut of "Jingle All the Way" to be selected. It takes roughly fifteen minutes to sit through all of these previews and Blu-ray is starting to feel more and more like going to the theater. When are the advertisements and Jimmy Fund ads coming? The theatrical cut runs for eighty nine minutes and the extended cut provides an additional four minutes of film. A few short scenes are added and some alternate music choices are made. I'd probably recommend watching the longer version, but I do prefer that studios do as Fox does here and provide both versions.
A few other bonus materials are provided. Four Extended and Deleted Scenes (20:36) are included on the disc and these are definitely worth watching, although it seems like two of these are what is included on the extended version. Three featurettes are included. The Making of a Hero (15:29) is your typical making-of film and features Arnold Schwazenegger and key members of the cast and crew discussing their making of "Jingle All the Way" and discusses the roots of the film in comic books and this should please fans of the Governator or of the film. Super Kids (8:12) is somewhat odd. This vignette is about younger children talking about super heroes. Most were between the age of eight and fourteen and they talk about what their thoughts are on super heroes and what type of hero they would be. Finally, Turbo Man: Behind the Mask (8:17) if a faux short documentary on the "Turbo Man" character and pretends that Turbo Man was a cultural phenomenon. It's fun.
"Jingle All the Way" is loved by enough people that Fox has released the film again under the guise of a "Family Fun Edition." I've now watched "Jingle All the Way three or four times since the film was released in 1996 and I cannot get behind the picture in the way that its fanbase can and would much rather watch "Home Alone" for the umpteenth time or one of many other Schwarzenegger pictures. It is a funny little movie, but comes across dated and its jokes are of the nature that after watching the film once or twice, the humor is lost. Rest in peace Phil Hartman, as the tragic death of the actor had the former Saturday Night Live star appear in only "Small Soldiers" after his performance in this film. The Blu-ray release is an average looking and sounding catalog title that is neither good nor bad in quality. The special features should please the fan base and those who love "Jingle All the Way" should be pleased with this effort.