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Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey

Nov 14, 2020

Light, formula-driven Christmas musical just right for kids.

Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey

Grade: B-

Director: David E. Talbert (El Camino Christmas)

Screenplay: Talbert

Cast: Forest Whitaker (Crying Game), Keegan-Michael Key (Dolemite is My Name)

Runtime: 2h 2m

Rating: PG

By: John DeSando

Having just reviewed the darkly comic Christmas story Fatman, starring Mel Gibson, I anticipated being hauled into the light spirit of a classic-type holiday musical called Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey. I was right—it is like other Christmas stories specially crafted with high voices and high jinks for kids, and not so much for adults.

The story is boilerplate holiday sentiment—family trying to bring everyone together amicably, greedy guys trying to tear family apart, and songs suiting meaning without much to remember except bouncy tunes and dazzling dancers. Oh, yes, one of the only white guys is the banker Delacroix (Hugh Bonneville), who is about to foreclose on the shop (been there and better done in It’s a Wonderful Life).

Jeronicus (Forest Whitaker as the older, Justin Cornwell as younger) has lost his gift for invention as well as his invention book, thanks to former assistant Gustafson (Keegan-Michael Key), a disaffected emerging inventor seemingly ignored by his boss. Jeronicus, now just a toymaker with a toy shop now pawnshop reminiscent of the kind of clutter Johnny Depp made magic with) will, of course, be saved by his irrepressible granddaughter, Jessica (Madalen Mills—no child could be that cute, but she is), who has his inventive genes in good order.

Writer-director David Talbot knows how to create and sustain the imaginative world of effervescent kids to complement it with serviceable songs from Philip Lawrence, Davy Nathan, Michael Diskint, and John Legend (a producer of this film) like “Square Root of Possible” and Legend’s R & B “Make It Work.” “Magic Man G” may be the most memorable, and “This Day” could have been from any Broadway musical.

Jingle Jangle has the potential to be a holiday staple despite grouchy critics like me for whom Bad Santa is the mark of excellence.  If you gravitate to over-crowded Dickensian sets, clear villains, weepy moms and grandmas, and magical inventions like the

High-flying Buddy 3000, a robot who talks and seems descended from E.T. or Wall-e, then relax by the fire with your kids and a modest cognac, and watch it on Netflix.

You may doze, but then you can pick up the story because you’ve seen it all before. Merry Christmas.

John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at JohnDeSando62@gmail.com