The big question with Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey Is simple: What does the audience want from a Christmas film?
Jingle jangle exists in the context of Netflix’s recent efforts to turn classic Netflix animation into a stable collection of modern holiday cinemas Klaus to the adventure of The Christmas Chronicles according to the formula of A Christmas prince. This is clearly part of an effort to back up the streaming service’s library with a collection of movies for audiences to enjoy over the holiday season. Jingle jangle marks the latest dazzling addition to this selection with Oscar-winning Forrest Whitaker and Oscar-winning John Legend.
Jingle jangle is a good execution of the standard formula for Christmas movies. There are songs. There are children. There is a frame device with a story that seems to combine fantasy and reality. There is elaborate production design. There is moral about the importance of the family. There are threatening deadlines that especially count until Christmas. There are toys. There are missiles. There is an unlikely (and yet also inevitable) happy ending. There are no surprises waiting under this richly decorated Christmas tree.
Then again, maybe that’s the point. Perhaps for Christmas people don’t want surprises, they want the warm comfort of familiarity.
It seems fair to observe that Netflix’s output varies widely in terms of quality. For each Deficiency, there is a Hillbilly elegy. For each Roma, there is a Mute. There’s a lot of fairly generic material there too, movies like Triple limit, The old guard and extraction. It should be noted, however, that these types of movies perform relatively well on the streaming service. extraction was supposedly Netflix’s most watched movie, suggesting that there is a clear market for movies that are largely conventional and familiar.
This could explain why Netflix’s big push to hit Christmas seems to have worked relatively well for the streaming service. While the company does not yet have to produce a perennial seasonal classic like It is a wonderful life or Die Hardor even a particularly big festive breakout, Netflix’s Christmas content in general manages to be “Well” for a very specific value of “Well.” The films tend to scratch a very specific itch and deliver exactly what the audience expects: reliable, sentimental, feel-good joy.
Therefore, many of the most common problems with these types of Netflix Originals are smoothed out when making movies like Jingle jangle. How many films produced by the streamer Jingle jangle feels something derived. The big show, which stops musical numbers in period costumes, is most immediately reminiscent of the recent musical smash at Christmas The greatest showman. The idea of disenchantment in a toy store is a worn out Christmas drop that covers it all Mister Magorium’s Wonder Emporium to shadow of Last Christmas.
However, outside of specific references, many of the tropics of Jingle jangle feels formulaic and predictable. At the beginning of the film, a banker shows up to warn toy store owner Jeronicus Jangle that the bank is considering collecting his debt. “Either come with the money you owe by Christmas,” the banker warns “Or show me the revolutionary invention that you once promised.” Jangle gasps. “Those are still days!” (Of course, the same banker inevitably learns the true meaning of Christmas in one of the film’s more succinct, but still completely conventional, festive arcs.)
Indeed, the film focuses on a toy maker who finds a way to bring his creations to life, only to let his young apprentice take that invention out of their hands. This rival turned apprentice is called “Gustafson”what often sounds like a strange portmanteau by “Gaston” and “Mustafa.” (He’s handily dressed in shades of green.) There’s a strong Disney vibe here. The lonely old toy maker remembers the presentation of Geppetto in Pinocchiowhile Anika Noni Rose out The princess and the frog has a small role and John Debney is working on the soundtrack.
There are no shocking or worrying developments in Jingle jangle. At some point, after an explosive set piece, one of the young children in the cast is called home for dinner and effectively apologizes for the rest of the movie. The closest thing the movie has to a major twist can easily be inferred from anyone who has ever seen a movie before, even before any of the characters are introduced. Of course, the older version of Jangle will be introduced as Curmudgeon, but at some point he will learn again to embrace life (and the people around him).
In most movies, this is predictably a more serious problem. However, watch Jingle janglethese conventions become comfort. There’s a sense in that Jingle jangle is completely uninterested in challenging or surprising his audience. Instead, the plan is to give them exactly what they expect. It may be forgivable in the context of a big, kind, colorful Christmas movie. After all, what more does the audience expect?
And yet there are still some unfortunate problems. As funny as the film may be, it ultimately lacks the depth that defines the best and most successful family films. To give an obvious example, the action is initiated when Jangle animates a toy called Don Juan Diego. Diego stutters to life and uses his full potential. However, he is horrified to discover that Jangle plans to mass-produce models of him so that every child on the planet can have their own sentient figure.
Diego is horrified and claims to be “One – and only of one kind.” He is so appalled that he inspires Gustafson to betray Jangle. Like that Jingle jangle Approaches Diego is fascinating because it takes his lack of personality and agency as read. Gustafson is vicious but worthy of compassion. It remains clear that Jangle has some affection for his former student, especially in their last scene together. However, Diego is portrayed as a monstrous threat to the established order that must be stopped and dismantled.
Jingle jangle Never pause to consider that Diego may have some meaning, that it could be vaguely monstrous to create an army of exact replicas of him so that they can presumably be sold to a generation of children. Given the emphasis Jingle jangle It seems like the mass production of copies of Diego is a grotesque violation of his self. Instead, Diego is portrayed as a monstrous fiend who has even dared to question the rigorous capitalist foundations of Christmas. Despite the charm of the film, it’s surprisingly unsettling.
Similar, Jingle jangle suffers easily from the dreaded Netflix bloat. The film clearly aspires to be a festive confection, and it piles up a little too much in places. In particular, the film runs about twenty minutes before Forrest Whittaker takes on the role of Jangle, another ten minutes before the key character of Journey is introduced, and about ten more minutes before Keegan-Michael Key takes on the role of adult Gustafson. That’s a lot of prologue and mythology for a story that doesn’t Really need.
There are also moments when Jingle jangle feels a bit too calculated and designed. This is most notable in the sequence where Jangle and his granddaughter think Journey. It’s very hard to visualize the process of mentally designing complex constructs and working with mathematical formulas, however Jingle jangle falls back on the standard orange and blue images used in comic book films such as Doctor strange and Ironman.
Still, there is a lot to enjoy Jingle jangle. As predictable as the film is, it hits most of its brands. The film has an incredible production design by Gavin Bocquet, who brings along the same otherworldly charm that his work on the war of stars Prequels and Stardust, along with The dark crystal. Likewise, Michael Wilkinson’s costume design is beautiful, full of rich fabrics and vibrant colors that look like something out of a fairy tale. Jingle jangle looks and feels a lot like the kind of sugar rush expected in the festive season.
The film uses some impressive computer-generated imagery, as well as some eye-catching stop-motion puppet shows in various bridging sequences. These steampunk imagery add some magic to the process. The result of this approach is to create something that feels unreal in a way that suits the vacation in question. Jingle jangle is a bright and vibrant piece of vacation fluff, and even its excesses occasionally feel in tune with the spirit of the season.
In addition, the film’s soundtrack is strangely charming. In terms of design and appearance, The greatest showman seems to have been a decisive influence here, which makes sense given the slow burner success of the film. Published opposite in his own way Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi, The greatest showman is a kind of Christmas movie. Much of the music in the film is downright theatrical. (One recurring gag focuses on the three singers and dancers that make up a choir, with Jangle even noting how incongruous they seem. “Background dancer?” he asks.)
But there is more to it than that. While Jingle jangle dispenses with modern electro-pop, which defines so many children’s films in favor of great musical arrangements that the film also draws on traditions from jazz, blues and Mo Town. The soundtrack features songs by John Legend and Philip Lawrence that complement the action nicely. The narrative is framed as “A New Story”and while the actual plot itself is completely conventional and straightforward, there is something to be said for the movie’s emphasis on black voices and talent.
Jingle jangle is not an extraordinarily resourceful creation. It doesn’t feel as wonderful and unique as a creation from Jeronicus Jangle’s workshop. If anything, it’s closer to Gustafson’s mass-produced items with just enough style and charm to stabilize it in ways that Gustafson’s own inventions never manage to make. The result is light, fun, goofy, and disposable. It lands perfectly in the sweet spot for a very special kind of Christmas film.