Most individuals with discerning taste would instantly dismiss Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 1990’s failed attempt at a comedic reinvention as nothing more than an actor who has a terrible agent or misguided career goals. However, I’d like to play devil’s advocate for the 1996 pseudo chuckle-fest Jingle All The Way.
In the holy quadinity of Schwarzenegger’s comedic efforts Jingle All The Way is far and away the most subversive. Oh, sure, Junior, Twins, and Kindergarten Cop all have there moments but Jingle All The Way attempts much more than the other three ever even come close to trying. But we’ll get into that later.
In case it’s (understandably) been a while since you’ve seen Jingle All The Way, let’s do a bit of a recap. Howard Langston, an extremely busy business man, has a hard time balancing home life and work. He’s constantly neglecting his son and wife in favor of staying late at the office or y’know… other generic plot devices.
Well, due to the fact that this is a Christmas film, Howard, in a lapse of memory, forgot to purchase the toy that his son wants more than anything. This movie’s version of Captain America meets Power Rangers known as Turbo Man. The rest of the movie is a pedantically predictable ‘fun filled romp’ around the city as Schwarzenegger’s Howard attempts in vain to find his son a Turbo Man doll.
Over the course of the film we’re introduced to the film’s antagonist played by the usually-loveable, but in this movie nearly tolerable, Sinbad. No, not the pirate from those old Harryhausen movies. The stand up from the 80’s. Yes. That Sinbad. Sinbad’s character, a curmudgeonly mail man is similarly motived. Let’s face it. There’s no better McGuffin than a toy that a child wants. Especially when it’s an action figure. Even more so when it’s an action figure of a strangely Schwarzenegger looking super hero rip off.
And now we get to the reason why I’m writing about this movie. No, it’s not because this movie is ‘fun for the whole family’ or ‘the next Christmas classic’. I’m writing about this movie because of it’s utterly bizarre and subversive third act.
Let me explain.
There’s a scene at the end of the second act of the film where Schwarzenegger and Sinbad are sitting in a dinner chatting about life and Turbo Man and … I don’t know what else. Anyway, Schwarzenegger is sipping a cup of coffee the whole time. For the majority of the scene the coffee cup can be seen in the wide and the two shots. Then Sinbad launches into this story about how when he was a little boy all he wanted for Christmas was the ‘Johnny Sokko Submachine Gun. It was seven guns in one’. He then goes on to say that he never forgave his father. We cut to a close up of Schwarzenegger who suddenly realizes that his son is going to end up a crazy mailman like Sinbad. Mind you: we can’t see his coffee cup during this part. Then the radio in the dinner they’re sitting in starts spitting out a commercial claiming that they’ve got a Turbo Man action figure right there in the studio, which is the most popular toy since the Johnny Sokko Submachine Gun. The radio asks if anyone out there can name all of Santa’s reindeer. Schwarzenegger and Sinbad talk to the radio, which seems to almost talk back. They say, yes. Of course we can and then they both bolt out of the dinner. Not before Schwarzenegger finishes his coffee of course.
From here on out the movie is utterly insane. It ranges from Sinbad faking a terrorist attack to ACTUALLY USING A BOMB on a police officer. Arnold Schwarzenegger gets in a fist fight with a real live reindeer. It’s goes bonkers. Then? Arnold, in a haphazard misunderstanding gets put into a real functioning Turbo Man suit and flies around New York. He literally flies through brick walls and survives. It’s utterly insane. And it comes out of nowhere.
That’s why I’m convinced that the last act of Jingle All The Way doesn’t really happen. It’s all a drug induced delusion of Schwarzenegger’s. Sinbad talks about how he finds all kinds of crazy stuff in the mail and multiple points in the movie. I think that the last act of Jingle All The Way is actually Schwarzenegger’s Howard Langdon having been drugged in the dinner by Sinbad’s inane mailman.
It’s all a statement about how the Holidays are so pressure filled that it will make even the most hardened individuals, someone who has to deal with the mail, into a nut job. It will make them go to whatever lengths necessary to fulfill the consumer driven, offspring fueled, need to show societal status by procuring expensive trinkets.
Jingle All The Way is the most insane and anti-capitalist christmas movie ever made. And that’s why I watch it every years.