Arnold Week: Jingle All the Way (1996)

As Arnold Schwarzenegger waited to be in Planet of the Apes — he’s still waiting — director Brian Levant* (who is a secret box office goldmine between this, Beethoven, The Flintstones and Are We There Yet?), producer Chris Columbus and writer Randy Kornfield got him for this tale of a father wo just wants to get his kid the hottest toy for Christmas. Kind of like Cabbage Patch Kids or Power Rangers, except its Turbo-Man in this film.

Mattress salesman Howard Langston (Schwarzenegger) has a lot of love in his heart for his wife Liz (Rita Wilson) and son Jamie (the chewed up and spit up by Hollywood future Star Wars prequels star Jake Lloyd), but he doesn’t have the time to show it, what with how much work he has. His neighbor Ted Maltin (Phil Hartman in his last role; I still get angry about his death, a total waste) always shows him up in an attempt to woo away Liz. Howard misses every big family event, but on Christmas Eve, he has a mission: get a Turbo-Man no matter what.

That same mission is shared by mailman and near comic book supervillain Myron Larabee (Sinbad). The two go near insane with the need for the toy by the end of the movie and the transition from real life to cartoon is complete as Howard dresses as Turbo-Man while Myron has on the costume of his enemy Dementor (Richard Moll plays the character on the TV show that opens the movie).

With a cast that includes Martin Mull as a DJ, Robert Conrad as the same cop that keeps running into Howard, Jim Belushi as a mall Santa, Laraine Newman, Harvey Korman, Curtis Armstrong, The BIg Show** as a giant Santa, Chris Parnell and Verne Troyer, Jingle All the Way never stops moving, placing Arnold and SInbad in pitched combat throughout while giving some life lessons along the way.

I thought I was too cool for Arnold’s family films when this came out and now I can out myself and say that I was wrong. Sure, this gets wildly stupid at the end, but isn’t that what these movies should be? I’m glad that I’ve learned to have fun with movies.

*Levant is honestly critic proof. He said so himself: “To read those reviews is an act of self-flagellation, but reviews be damned when you’re at Blockbuster, and you’re seeing family after family grab one of your movies off the shelf on a Friday night. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen that.”

**WWE Films would make a sequel to this in 2014 with Larry the Cable Guy and Santino Marella in the lead roles. There are no other wrestlers involved, not Turbo-Man, as the toy in that film is Harrison The Talking Bear.

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