Last year, we were blown away by Netflix’s release of “Klaus”. A heartwarming reimagining of the origin of Christmas. Gorgeously animated, full of Christmas cheer with a good dose of toe-tapping numbers to sing-a-long too. It’s 2020, though, and we’ll need a ton of holiday joy to make up for this crap year.
Thankfully, Netflix delivers once again with another magical Christmas film, “Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey”. In spite of its November release, trust us when we say that it makes any day of the year feel like Christmas. So without further ado, let’s unwrap this present and see what “Jingle Jangle” has in store for us!
“Jingle Jangle” follows the story of Jeronicus Jangle. Once a brilliant toymaker and inventor who had his greatest invention and his life’s work stolen from him. Now, a broken widower, estranged from his daughter. His life is about to change, though, when his spitfire granddaughter Journey Jangle comes looking for him. Together, they’ll discover a magical invention that could finally lift Jeronicus from his despair. That is if his former apprentice and current nemesis, Gustafson doesn’t foil the duo’s plan. It’s time for Jeronicus and Journey to restore the Jangle name to its former glory.
Is the premise terribly original? Frankly no, the plot is your typical family-is-the-true-meaning-of-Christmas parable. None of that matters though because “Jingle Jangle” is just so much dang fun! The world of “Jingle Jangle” is simply magical, imagine a small provincial English village with a soul and steampunk bent to it. There’s so much personality and charm to everyone and everything in this crazy singing town. It certainly helps that every extra is simply waiting for their cue to get involved in a show-stopping musical number or set up a hilarious punchline.
The writing here is fantastic. It’s sharp, witty with the occasional adult edge snuck into it. Nothing particularly obscene or vulgar, just a good bit of tongue-in-cheek fun. The film seems to be well aware that of the genre it inhabits and the many, many tropes that come with it. It does take the time to poke some fun at some of the more absurd aspects of it. It’s not quite 2011’s “Arthur Christmas” but still, it’s a pretty solid comedy.
As a Christmas family drama, “Jingle Jangle” is fairly unremarkable in that category. It functions off the time-tested formula of the cantankerous and jaded old-timer and the sweet, wide-eyed whimper-snapper dynamic. All the dramatic tension, cliche gags and heartfelt moments you’ve come to expect from the dyad are available here. The conflict of the film, namely Gustafson and the living toy Don Juan Diego, get to play the role of the mean, ole corporate machine trying to foil our duo. Hey, what’s a Christmas film without some avatar of mass commercialisation trying to hijack the holiday?
However, its fantastic performances more that make up for its narrative predictability. Seriously, everyone on-set seems to be running on some sort of super-concentrated dose of Christmas Cheer (or speed, probably speed). Forest Whitaker has always been a sensational dramatic actor. From his explosive role as the dictator Idi Amin in “The Last King of Scotland” to his more prominent parts in “Rogue One” and “Black Panther”.
He’s not particularly known for his comedic timing or family-friendly appeal. That being said, Whitaker’s Jeronicus is an absolute sweetheart in “Jingle Jangle”. He really sells you the image of a sad, disillusioned old man learning to love again. So every heartbreak he faces feels all the more personal, and every triumph more meaningful. We never thought we’d say it but…Whitaker’s should try for more family films. Actress Madalen Mills as Journey leans into her inherent adorability and makes every moment between her and Whitaker sweet as a candy cane.
The rest of the supporting cast also lifts “Jingle Jangle” high above the rest of the TV film Christmas specials. Keegan-Michael Key of “Key and Peele” fame does a great job playing the scorned apprentice who stole his master’s work. He and Ricky Martin, as the nefarious living doll, Don Juan Diego, have great comedic chemistry as Diego leads Gustafson down the path of greed. One little guy who definitely deserves a hand is Kieron L. Dyer, who plays Jeronicus’ assistant, Edison. He channels his inner Erkel and it is nothing short of cutesy and hilarious. Really, in terms of performances, everybody does a phenomenal job.
All this is set to a whimsical backdrop ripped straight out of a Dr Seuss children’s book. The aesthetics of “Jingle Jangle” are simply gorgeous. From the colourful costume designs to the clockwork practical and special effects that tick and crank as though they were alive. The production team here really did go the extra mile to make everything in “Jingle Jangle” both magical and yet tangible. Everything except for perhaps one particular automaton. The CGI work behind the character isn’t terribly disruptive but his presence does clash with film’s otherwise stellar design work.
Oh and then there’s the music! The moment we heard “This Day” performed by Justin Cornwell and crew, we were hooked. Especially when you pair it with the film’s excellent dance choreography, every number in the film was a treat. Not all of them are going to be radio earworms but they’re fun and infectious enough to keep you humming long after the credits roll.
“Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey” is everything you want in a great holiday film. A sweet, heartwarming tale about family, hope, kindness and magic with inspired performances all-around from delivery to dance. All neatly wrapped up in a steampunk-clad package. We were fairly skeptical about a Christmas film hitting Netflix as early as November, thinking it a bit of a cheap way to build momentum. Never have we been so glad to be wrong. This film makes any day of the year feel like Christmas and we can’t wait to make this a holiday tradition!
You can catch all this festive cheer on Netflix today and be sure to tell us which is your favourite Christmas film in the comments down below!