It’s interesting that they felt the need to add that second part to the film’s title as anything with the word jingle in it is already going to have strong Yuletide connotations. Still, to be fair maybe they realised there isn’t a great deal that is Christmassy about the tale other than the time of year at which it is set.
In fact, let’s get into this quickly. For a film to be a proper Christmas Movie then that needs to be the glue; it would have to fall apart if the seasonal elements were removed. If it hasn’t got mulled wine and eggnog running through its veins then by my mind it doesn’t properly qualify. So Miracle of 34th Street is a Christmas Movie because with no Santa there’s no story. Similarly Elf, The Polar Express, The Grinch, The Nightmare Before Christmas and A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas all meet standard. Love Actually, on the other hand, is not actually a Christmas Movie, not truly. Neither is Home Alone or It’s a Wonderful Life, and I’m going to say it, neither is Die Hard.
At least Jingle Jangle features a magical toy maker. Amusingly when I told my daughter the plot of this film; that it was about a humble inventor who had his ideas snatched by another man who then used them to become the greatest toy maker in the world, she said ‘Oh no, was that Father Christmas? Is this a movie about how Father Christmas is a criminal and a fraud?’. A little disappointingly, that is not what this film is about.
It actually centres around this guy named Jeronicus Jangle. (At one point he asks why no one addresses him by his proper name. I’ve got a suggestion as to why; because you’re called Jeronicus. Jeez!) Anyway, as the story begins Jerry Jangle is waiting for the delivery of the final component that will allow him to complete his greatest creation. I saw him open the box but I still couldn’t tell you what this component is. Nonetheless, he adds it to this tiny mechanical man who comes to life and magically turns out to be an insufferable and arrogant little a-hole. Mr. J’s plan is to mass produce this doll and send copies around the world but it’s fortunate the original is stolen because this tiny dude is mean. Seriously, it would be akin to Audrey II’s plan in Little Shop of Horrors. Birthing millions of these poisonous little narcissists and sending them to every corner of the globe would surely wipe out humanity. J.J should have destroyed his abhorrent creation with fire the second it’s attitudes became clear but he doesn’t and the clockwork jerk, not wanting his individuality to be compromised, convinces Jangle’s assistant to snatch him away along with the bosses designs. Before you know it, this fifteen centimetre Frankenstein’s monster and the Judas wanting kudos disappear into the night. Our hero spirals into a creative funk, his wife dies very suddenly of narrative necessity and his daughter is driven away, which leaves everything in place for a plucky grandchild to return years later and save the day.
Oh, and there are songs.
Jingle Jangle evidently wants to be The Greatest Showman meets The Muppet’s Christmas Carol. Some reviews have referenced the first of these two films and the exuberant dancing and the vaguely similar historical period (there are frock coats and top hats) do invite comparison. As it is though it is more like High School Musical meets Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium. If it is this year’s The Greatest Showman then it is the low rent version, and let’s be honest, that’s saying something.
The tunes are okay, John Legend was involved somewhere, but they are clearly written to work out of context so they don’t work in context quite so well. Look at some of the lyrics:
‘Over and over and over again, I think on my life and what might have been, so much I could have achieved yet I stand here alone in defeat.’
Then there is:
‘Time stands still, can’t explain what I feel, is this really real, nothing’s ever going to be the same.’
These could have pretty much come from any musical, in fact that last one is particularly High School Musicalish.
By contrast, take lines like ‘One short day in the Emerald City’, ‘When I meet the Wizard, once I’ve proved my worth’ and even ‘It’s time to try defying gravity’ could only come from the one show (okay, maybe two; I guess they’d work in The Wizard of Oz as well). How about this:
‘Some women are dripping with diamonds, some women are dripping with pearls, lucky me, lucky me, look at what I am dripping with; little girls.’
Could this ever be sung by anyone other than Miss Hannigan?
Jingle Jangle also has a verse that goes:
‘Come on, give me something. I’ll cook it in the oven, serve it up with loads of loving because the world needs to see you smile.’
which frankly, is weird. Was that one of Legend’s?
The rest of the film is quite endearing, especially for the target audience which is considerably younger than me. It doesn’t feel very sophisticated and it’s all quite forgettable but it’s fun if you want to get in the Christmas mood. It has enough Christmas in it for that.
The Ripley Factor:
Jingle Jangle has an almost all black cast which is still not common in cinema generally, in movies where race is not a part of the focus particularly and in Christmas films especially.
More common in kid’s stories is a young female protagonist. The granddaughter is not really the lead here, that’s Jeronicus (snigger), but young Journey (which is a name I am somehow able accept more easily even though this is apparently the 1800s) drives the plot and brings the resolution. She’s obviously what the subtitle is referring to because no one goes travelling, although she’s not Christmassy either.
In the end, for all its jingling and jangling, the biggest noise it makes is in providing important role models.