Out of all the holidays, Christmas holds the distinct honor of easily having the most movies made about it. Most are forgettable Hallmark Channel garbage, but some are true classics like It’s a Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street and Jingle All the Way. That’s right, Jingle All the Way is a holiday classic!
I was very surprised to learn that many haven’t even heard of this 90’s Christmas gem while perusing Reddit today. I guess it’s somewhat unsurprising as the movie was never really taken seriously, thanks to weak reviews upon its release. It gets zero respect when compared to other lauded contemporary Christmas films like Home Alone and Christmas Vacation, but in my opinion, it deserves so much more.
In fact, Jingle All the Way is required holiday viewing in my household. It’s got Arnie, it’s funny, it’s irreverent, it has a million quotable lines, it doesn’t make an ounce of sense and it’s the perfect remembrance of the misery of the pre-Amazon holiday shopping season. Yes, it’s a historical fucking art piece. Still not convinced, take a look at the facts:
1. Arnold as the Everyman
What absolute mad man cast this thing. I’ve got an idea, let’s make a Christmas movie set in St. Paul, Minnesota featuring a midwestern, mattress salesman father named Howard Langston. You know who we’ll cast? Austrian-accented Mr. Universe Arnold Schwarzenegger, because that makes perfect fucking sense. He’s a totally average dude. This may read as a critique, it is not. Watching everyone around him completely ignore the fact that he has a thick accent and is built like a horse is hilarious.
His own family doesn’t recognize him or his voice when he’s dressed as Turboman, which only really means his in a red suit with what amounts to a pair of yellow Oakley’s covering his eyes. Who is that muscular Austrian guy wonders this small town, it could literally be anyone.
This movie has so many quotable lines it hurts. Literally, it hurts. Show my Dad this movie and he’ll be repeating lines like the following for weeks:
- “Put that cookie down! Now!”
- “I’m not a pervert”
- “you can’t bench press your way out of this one” – notably the only time in the movie anyone recognizes the fact that Arnold is a humongous human being
- “How about these stupid letters from kids to Santa at the North Pole: “Dear Santa, Can you send me a bike and a slinky?” No! Your father’s been laid off!”
3. Sinbad at His Prime
Did Sinbad ever have a prime? Well, this is as close as it gets. A psychotic mailman that not only chokes a woman but acts out not one but two true terrorist plots in the span of a single movie that’s based around Christmas. What could be better? Don’t forget that half of his lines don’t make an ounce of freaking sense (he yells Rodney King at one point and says something about Sickle Cell in another) or that he ends the movie chasing a child up the side of a building to a near death fall.
4. A Confusingly Anti-Police Storyline
I’m not sure Ice-T himself could’ve written a more anti-police story line. This cop goes through hell chasing Arnold and Sinbad around. The pain culminates in him getting blown up, then having hot coffee poured all over his bandaged wounds. I don’t know where it came from, but it’s a pretty hilarious aside.
5. Everything About Phil Hartman
The late Phil Hartman was an amazingly talented comedic actor, and his performance as the ultimate sleazy next door neighbor is great. He’s trying to seduce Howard’s wife Liz and it makes for the most underrated aspect of the whole film. He’s creepy to the max and straight ups sexually assaults her more than once. His orgasmic eating of her cookies while talking to Howard on the phone is particularly fantastic.
6. There’s a Drunk Reindeer
Remember that creep Ted? Well, turns out Ted is weird in a lot of ways. Ted, being the amazing single father he is, decides it would be a good idea to buy his kiddo a Reindeer for Christmas. Because that’s a normal thing to do.
After Howard nearly burns down Ted’s house while trying to steal his son’s Turboman figure, all of that happens and is completely forgotten by the end of the movie, he gets drunk with a reindeer. Oh, he also punches the reindeer in the face.
7. Jamie Drinking
There’s a surprisingly accurate amount of drinking in Jingle All the Way, but the best instance is when Howard imagines his son having a future like Sinbad’s character Myron. After not receiving the Christmas present he wanted the little shit apparently turned to the bottle and became a lowly mailman. “Here’s to you, Dad.”
It’s also worth noting that Howard’s driveling little snot nosed kid is child Anakin from those Star Wars movies we all wish never happened.
8. The Most Confusing Timeline Known to Man
Arnold Schwarzenegger is either simultaneously the most productive person on planet earth while searching for a Turboman doll or the least productive person at work and in his home life. That or the timeline in this movie makes no damn sense. In the course of a single day Howard visits a ton of toy stores, the mall of America, a diner where he sits and mopes, drives around half the city, runs out of gas, pushes his car (a Tahoe) several miles, gets caught in a Santa-involved underground counterfeit toy running scheme, fights about 50 little people (one of whom is reading a porno mag named “mischief”), is involved in a radio station terrorist plot and the bombing of a police officer, and about 20 other things. But at the end of this seemingly 40 hour day, the sun is still out like it’s mid-day and a parade is occurring.
Also confusing, it’s Christmas, but Christmas never appears to happen. Yep, this is the only Christmas movie I can think of that doesn’t include Christmas.
9. The Consumerism Commentary
At its heart, Jingle All the Way is about the over-commercialization of Christmas. It’s about the extreme lengths people, especially parents, feel the must go in order to buy the perfect gift. People still get trampled every year on Black Friday for shitty brand-you’ve-never-heard-of television sets, but maybe if more people watched Jingle All the Way they wouldn’t. Yes, this movie has the potential to change the world.