In the first 10 minutes of Jingle All the Way, before we even get into the slapstick, crime-laden, immoral plot, we learn that Arnold Schwarzenegger is a negligent father who doesn’t spend enough time with his family because he’s too busy running a successful…mattress company? Honestly, there is one scene during the opening credits in which we see Arnold Schwarzenegger at work, and he says the word “mattresses” and there are mattresses visible in the background, but it is never made explicitly clear what, exactly, his business is, or why it’s successful. After he leaves the office, it is never mentioned again, which is actually pretty surprising if he’s really supposed to be so obsessed with his work to the detriment of his personal life. But that’s actually not the issue I want to talk about. The issue I want to talk about is how the reason we know he’s a bad father is because he misses his son’s karate class where his son was promoted from a yellow belt to purple belt. Um, no he didn’t. Because that’s impossible. Later, the son angrily complains to his dad that he also missed his promotion from blue belt to yellow belt. Again, no he didn’t. Obviously, in a movie so riddled with HUGE and GENUINELY OFFENSIVE problems, it’s probably a waste of energy to get so mad about something like this, but there is literally not one single martial arts system in the entire world that functions on a belt system that goes from blue to yellow to purple. Even people who don’t know anything about karate know that yellow belt is a bullshit belt. The point is: if you’re going to make the super-specific choice to make the ONE DETAIL we EVER LEARN about this LITTLE BOY’S ENTIRE LIFE, his DEFINING CHARACTERISTIC BEING A MILD INTEREST IN MINNESOTA KARATE CLASS, at least do five minutes of research and get the details right. GOD DAMN IT. Seriously. Like, trust me, Jingle All the Way, you’re going to get a lot more things wrong in the coming hour and a half, it would be in your interest to get a couple of victories under your belt.
This movie is so fucking stupid and deplorable. It’s deplorable! I hate it. I hate it so much.
So, Arnold Schwarzenegger is a very busy mattress king, or whatever, who misses all of his son’s karate classes. He feels so guilty about this most recent offense that he tries to make it up to his son by asking him what he wants for Christmas. Now, let’s just stop the clock right there, Jesse Bradford. For one thing, this establishes that the entire conceit of this movie is, as one might have guessed, completely despicable. It suggests that a father can make up for a lifetime of damaging negligence by simply buying his child the right toy. Yuck. But what’s even more hilarious is that HE SHOULD BE ASKING HIS SON WHAT HE WANTS FOR CHRISTMAS ANYWAY. That is what parents do on Christmas. The idea that he is somehow making it up to his child by getting him a present that he wants when that is what every other father is doing minus the day-to-day disregard is just a further sign of this A+ dad’s complete lack of awareness about his role in the family structure. That night he brags to his wife about how much him and the kid are getting along ever since he promised him the toy he wants (a Turbo Man doll). The wife is like “Oh good, so you definitely got him the toy that I already asked you to get him two weeks ago because it’s the most popular toy of the season and basically impossible to find anymore?” So, just to reiterate: negligent father attempts to make up for deeply ingrained negligent by asking an ignorant question with an obvious answer, only to learn he had been given the same answer two weeks earlier and promptly ignored it. P.S. tomorrow night is Christmas Eve. Why doesn’t Arnold Schwarzenegger just kill himself?
The rest of the movie is a “madcap” adventure in which Arnold Schwarzenegger makes ever more ridiculous attempts to find the elusive toy for his son (abandoning his family even more in the process), and also enters into a competition with another father played by Sinbad who also wants a Turbo Man doll. It’s retarded. Like, to give you a sense of just how retarded it is, aside from all of the running and punching and slipping and pooping and farting and grunting, at one point they are both in a diner when they hear a radio announcer say that the first caller to name all eight of Santa’s reindeer correctly will win a Turbo Man doll. The two men grapple for the payphone and end up, obviously, breaking the phone. But the waiter at the diner informs them that the radio station is just two blocks away. So they RUN TO A RADIO STATION and TAKE THE ELEVATOR UPSTAIRS and BANG ON THE WINDOW and at this point no one has called in with the correct answer (?) even though it’s a pretty stupid question that even these two dopes know the answer to, and then there is another fight and also a BOMB. I mean, good God. Speaking of bombs, the movie has, by my last count, at least 10 serious crimes including assault, impersonating a police officer, domestic terrorism, breaking and entering, and cruelty to animals. Oh, and tampering with the mail.
The movie’s climax involves a holiday parade in which an entire city of people, adults included, cannot wait for a Turbo Man float to pass by. Seriously, like, adults are screaming “WE LOVE YOU, TURBO MAN!” I’ve only been to Minneapolis once, and it was during the summer, so maybe this is an accurate depiction of the city in 1996, but I hope you guys have worked that shit out by now. Of course, Arnold Schwarzenegger ends up in the Turbo Man costume, at which point Sinbad puts on the villain costume and actually chases the little boy up onto the roof of a building. Meanwhile, everyone is just watching? As a grown man attempts to actually MURDER A CHILD? What is even going on here? And don’t get me started on this:
Also don’t get me started on the fact that neither Arnold Schwarzenegger’s wife nor son recognize him in the Turbo Man costume?
Again, I’ve only been to Minneapolis once, but how many 6’2″ rock-jawed dudes with giant buck-teeth and egg-nog thick Austrian accents are running around that place? Anyway, the little boy feels the spirit of Christmas and gives Sinbad the doll as he’s being hauled away by the police, because he doesn’t need the doll anymore because he’s got the real Turbo Man at home. WHAT? So just to clarify, the true spirit of Christmas is giving a violent criminal a toy that you yourself actually got kind of illegally or at the very least under questionable circumstances since the Turbo Man float dude was supposed to pick one lucky child from the crowd and Arnold Schwarzenegger just picked his son, which should at least raise some eyebrows in the Parade Prizes Steering Committee because your dad put on a costume and almost let you die. Such terrible nonsense.
Now, I know that it’s kind of beside the point to criticize Arnold Schwarzenegger’s acting, but holy cow, he was really ON HIS GAME in this movie, if being on his game means delivering a performance so horrible that it is almost impossible. Or at least pornographic. Like, how does this scene not end in a 20-minute long sex scene?
What does he think this is? Wild Hogs?
Every single aspect of the movie delivers an ugly and disgusting message. The most obvious ones, about consumerism as replacement for fatherly attention, and the acceptable use of actual violence in an attempt to GET what YOU WANT is gross, but also obvious. No duh. But even in smaller ways, this movie is just a fucking dick. Like, Phil Hartman plays Arnold Schwarzenegger’s recently divorced neighbor. He is always helping people out and being kind, and Arnold Schwarzenegger is always SO MEAN to him, yelling at him and rolling his eyes. Why? Why is it in movies that the nice person is always treated as the stupid asshole who deserves to get his block knocked off? Being nice is nice! But of course at the end of the movie, basically out of nowhere, Phil Hartman tries to molest Rita Wilson, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s wife, in a parked car. So I guess he was a terrible person all along! (No he wasn’t. This movie sucks.)
Meanwhile, beyond the broad, obvious ways that Arnold Schwarzenegger is a terrible father, the movie actually shows him to be far worse than any of us could have imagined, although it never seems to suggest that it’s anything other than a misunderstanding. Aww, poor dads, always trying so hard and just never getting any credit. YEAH RIGHT. Here is Arnold Schwarzenegger talking to his CHILD on the phone:
Cool. Good dad. It should be noted that this face is made in response to his child’s request that his father come home and celebrate Christmas with the family. It should also be noted that after he hangs up, Arnold Schwarzenegger sits down for a cup of coffee at a diner. Really? How about GOING HOME TO YOUR FUCKING FAMILY YOU STUPID PIECE OF SHIT? While having that cup of coffee, Sinbad, who is also at the diner–riiiiiiight?–tells him a story about how when he was a kid, he and his friend from the neighborhood both wanted the same toy for Christmas but while his friend got the toy he didn’t, and his friend grew up to be a BILLIONAIRE (lololol) while he grew up to be a potentially sociopathic alcoholic mailman. At which point, Arnold Schwarzenegger has a panic attack about the future his own child is now facing if he doesn’t get him a Turbo Man doll.
Who is this moment for? Is it for parents? Are parents supposed to relate to the fear that their child is going to grow up to be a mailman (which is actually a pretty comfortable civil service job, assholes, so fuck you) if they don’t get the toy that they want? Because if it’s for parents, GET A GRIP PARENTS. Or is it for children? Is it a joke for children? Is it funny for children to see other children drink? I don’t get this joke. What I do get is that this is one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen in my life.
Eventually, of course, for no reason whatsoever, Arnold Schwarzenegger straight PUNCHES A REINDEER IN THE FUCKING FACE.
After this, and I am not joking, he pours a six pack of beer into a bowl and gives it to the reindeer to drink.
In the end, it is much more important to me that people be good people than that movies be good movies. Like, I’d rather actual dads treat their kids right than worry too much about what a make-believe dad does to his make-believe child. But since there’s still lots of terrible dads in the world for real, and people still try and rape each other in cars, and knock each other down escalators and push each other off of roofs, and claw and scratch and bite, can we at least PRETEND like someone is decent around here? Is it not hard enough in this world without Jingle All the Way making it worse?
Oh well. Christmas is not always about getting what you want. Sorry. SORRY EVERYONE.
Next week: Christmas with the Kranks.