Thursday, December 15, 2016

Dashing Through the Mall (of America)

Jingle All the Way
Director: Brian Levant
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rita Wilson, Phil Hartman, Sinbad, Jake Lloyd, Jim Belushi
Released: November 22, 1996


This is a movie I've never actually seen all the way through, but I did know the plot and I had seen plenty of scenes on TV, so I knew the basic plot was that Arnold Schwarzenegger's character, Howard Langston, is trying to get his son the hot action figure toy called Turbo Man for Christmas.

This was not a great movie by any means (in fact, it's pretty bad), but when it gets to the end, it really turns into a steaming pile of crap. But I'll come back to that when we get there. The entire movie is about consumerism and buying your kid's love and affection. It "tries" to teach you a lesson, but I don't think it succeeds. 

The movie quickly establishes that Howard is a workaholic and often misses his son's events. After he misses his son's karate tournament and how upset little Jamie (Jake Lloyd) is, he tells him he will give him anything he wants to make it up to him and Jamie tells him he wants a Turbo Man. (It's like a Power Ranger? I guess?) Jake Lloyd is so bad in this and I'm confused how George Lucas picked him to play young Anakin. Maybe he became a better actor when he made that movie? I would have no idea as I've never seen thats movie. But something tells me that's not the case. In Jingle All The Way, most of the time he looks like he's reciting his lines and it is not natural at all. I know he was only seven or so, but there are better six year old actors out there! There has to be ones better than him! He is just atrocious. Luckily he's not in the movie too much. 

Howard goes to pick up the toy the next day, which happens to be Christmas Eve and this upsets his wife, Liz (Rita Wilson) that he's going out, but Howard promises her and his son that he will make it to the Christmas parade. He goes to a toy store that hasn't quite opened yet and there are a bunch of people also waiting to get in. He meets a postal worker, Myron. He's played by Sinbad and is not funny at all, but he's trying to be. All he does it rant about nonsensical things. He's also trying to get a Turbo Man for his kid. When the store opens, everyone rushes in and tramples over a store employee like it's Black Friday. The shelves where Turbo Man is supposed to be are all empty. The only toy they have is Booster, who is Turbo's pet tiger and apparently nobody wants that toy. Howard asks an employee if they have any more Turbo Man dolls and the guy just laughs in his face and basically says, "Good luck finding one on Christmas Eve"! I guess Howard or Myron didn't realize they were looking for the Tickle Me Elmo of that year. (Ironically, Tickle Me Elmo was THE hot toy of 1996). And if you didn't know what year this movie takes place in, Arnold wears an Atlanta 1996 shirt.

We get a montage of Howard going to a bunch of shops looking for the Turbo Man, but coming up short. This movie takes place in Minneapolis and I was thinking, Why doesn't he just go to the Mall of America? Which he eventually does. I guess I can't blame him for avoiding it as long as he could because the Mall of America is the last place you want to go to on Christmas Eve, or anytime near Christmas for that matter. I've been to Minneapolis and the Mall of America a few times so it was cool seeing familiar sites. At a toy store in the MoA, there is one Turbo Man left and there will be a lottery to determine who gets it. (And they will be paying double the original price!) Each person will get a rubber bouncy ball with a number on it and whichever number is called is the winner. The only problem is, there are more people than there are numbered balls so an employee just tosses them up in the air and it's every man for himself. Myron also happens to be there (he and Howard keep running into each other) and the two of them fight over a ball. Howard chases it through the mall where it goes through Legoland (I've been there!) and it bounces down and lands in a kid's stroller (and this kid looked way too old to be in a stroller) and she takes it with her through an indoor playground and ends up in a ball pit. Howard follows her through all the obstacles. They had to have build a bigger one for Arnold because there is no way Arnold friggin' Schwarzenegger could have fit through those! I have been on those kiddie playthings with my nieces and I have trouble fitting through those and I am no six foot tall bodybuilder! The kid puts it in her mouth (eww) and Howard is beat up by a bunch of mothers who call him a pervert. Yeah, the movie went there! 

He gives up on getting the ball back (it's not like his number would have been called anyway) and comes across a mall Santa played by Jim Belushi. He tells him he knows where he can get a Turbo Man and takes him to a warehouse with a bunch of Santas. I guess they sell toys on the black market? I wasn't really sure what was going on there. But it was definitely illegal!  He tells Howard it will cost him $300 and stupidly Howard gives him the money before inspecting the item, which is wrapped, and "Santa" tells him not to open it right away. Like that doesn't sound shady. It turns out the toy is a cheap knockoff and the doll's appendages fall apart as soon as Howard touches them and the voicebox is in Spanish. Howard and all the Santas get into a fight which includes a large candy cane prop Howard uses to knock a bunch of Santas out at the same time and candy cane nunchucks used by one of the Santas. The police arrive and Howard uses a fake toy badge to tell them he's an undercover cop and manages to escape. He never did get his $300 back, though. 

The great, late Phil Hartman plays Ted, the Langston's neighbor who is always trying to one up Howard. Ted is divorced and has his eye on Liz. He's the kind of dad who has already bought his son a Turbo Man way in advance and has it wrapped under the tree already and he also brings a reindeer to his house for all the neighborhood kids to pet. He goes over to the Langston's house where Liz is baking cookie and tells her to take a nice bubble bath and he can finish baking the cookies while he watches the kids, playing in the next room. I did laugh how he's being very pleasant when she's around, but as soon as she's upstairs, he yells at the kids, "PIPE DOWN IN THERE!" Howard calls from a pay phone during this time and is not happy that Ted is over at his house while his wife is in the shower. He's also not happy that Ted is eating Christmas cookies as he tells him, "Put down the cookie!" 

The whole conversation enrages Howard and he is reminded what Ted told him (very smugly) about already having bought a Turbo Man for his son and decides to steal it. He goes inside Ted's house while everyone is outside fawning over the reindeer. Just as he's about to leave, he feels guilty about what he's done and knows he can't take another kid's toy, so he goes to put it back, but somehow he ends up starting a fire in the house and the reindeer attacks him. (Don't ask). The fire is put out, but Liz and Ted find out what he tried to do and both are disgusted with him. Howard goes to Mickey's Diner, (the same diner where Charlie Conway's mom worked in The Mighty Ducks if I recall right!) and guess who he runs into again? Yep, Myron. They hear the radio announcer saying the first person to call in and can correctly tell him the name of Santa's reindeer, then they will win a Turbo Man. They both race to the diner's pay phone (remember, this was 1996!), but Myron ends up ripping the cord from the phone and somehow they're both trying to call the radio station...did they not notice the phone was no longer connected? The diner owner tells them the radio station isn't that far from where they are so they both race there and start spewing the names of reindeer while the DJ (Martin Mull) thinks they're both crazy. And he's not wrong because Myron gives him a parcel and tells him it's a bomb and he's not leaving without the doll. The DJ tells him he doesn't have the toy at the station and I thought he was going to tell them they had to go to another location to get it, but instead he just has a gift certificate for the toy which doesn't make any sense because how is that even relevant if the damn toy is sold out everywhere anyway? 

The police are called and there's a running joke throughout the movie where Howard keeps running into the same police officer (played by Robert Conrad) at least four or five times. I found that a little hard to believe seeing that Minneapolis is quite a big city and, really, what are the odds of that? Pretty slim, I'd say. Howard and Myron are able to escape because Myron tosses another parcel to them and tells them it's a bomb. The parcel he gave to the DJ wasn't a bomb, but it turns out this one was so the movie turns pretty dark when we see an explosion. However, the police officer just has some torn clothes and soot on his face. Must have been a pretty weak bomb. 

The parade is about to start and Liz and Ted have just arrived there with their kids. Little Jamie is looking around for his dad, but doesn't seem him. Meanwhile, Howard is also at the parade and is grabbed by someone who mistakenly thinks he's covering for the guy who was supposed to be Turbo Man in the parade but couldn't make it. This is where the movie just turns into a pile of reindeer poo. As Turbo Man, Howard is suppose to pick "one lucky kid" who will come up on the float with him and win a "special edition" Turbo Man toy. I was listening to a podcast review of this movie and one of the hosts said they thought he was going to see Myron in the parade with his son and would have a change of heart and choose Myron's son. But that doesn't happen. In fact, we never actually see Myron's son in this movie. Instead, Howard obviously chooses his son and when he says his son's name, Jamie is sooo amazed that "Turbo Man" knows his name. I mean, how stupid is this kid? He can't tell that's his dad? His dad has an Austrian accent and this Turbo Man has an Austrian accent! His dad has a prominent square jaw and this Turbo Man has a prominent square jaw! This Turbo Man also happens to be the exact height and has the exact same muscle mass of this Turbo Man. And he's not even wearing a mask, only his eyes are covered by goggles. Seriously, this kid couldn't figure that out? Uh-huh. So Jamie gets his super duper extra special Turbo Man doll, but Myron, somehow dressed as Turbo Man's arch nemesis, Dementor gets into a fight with Howard as Turbo Man and starts chasing Jamie, who has stuck the doll into his backpack, up a building. This Turbo Man costume seems very dangerous. It has blades in the wrists which he shoots at Myron/Dementor. There's also a freaking jet pack (how did they even afford that?) which takes him way up in the sky and he goes all over the city and crashes through one side of a family's apartment and out the other....I sure hope they sued the ass out of the parade people for making such a dangerous costume that ruined their home! The special effects, as you man have guessed, are just awful and look cartoony and fake. Howard rescues Jamie when he sees his son dangling from a building and flies to him as he slips off and catches him. 

Everyone cheers when they both safely land and Liz comes up to them. I thought for sure that she would notice that was her husband, but no, apparently she's as stupid as her son because when "Turbo Man" reveals himself to be their father/husband, she is as shocked and surprised as her son is. Really, movie? Little Jamie has a change of heart as the police have arrested Myron for pretty much everything he's done that day and lets him have the toy to give to his son. And yes, you could say that was a very sweet and generous thing to do, but when Howard asks him why he gave away a toy he wanted so badly, Jamie tells him, "Why do I need a toy when I have the REAL Turbo Man at home? So basically the only reason he gave him the toy was because he had a bigger, better, LIVE Turbo Man and he would have held on to it if his dad had never been Turbo Man. What a spoiled little punk. Also, he's going to be in for a world of hurt when he realizes that this will be the only time his dad will ever be Turbo Man and will most likely go back to his workaholic ways. 

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