Wednesday, December 25, 2013

JINGLE ALL THE WAY (1996)


It’s Black Friday. A 40-band equalizer sound system/VHS player/fuck machine combo is on sell at Wal-Mart for seven cents. You show up at four in the morning, carrying a pot of black coffee and a lifetime of capitalist baggage. When the door finally opens, you create a diversion by smashing the pot over the head of the 400 pound Arab in front of you, and then deploy a series of Hulkamania elbow smashes to frigid temples to work your way up to the front of the line. You finally get into the store and rampage towards the electronics section like a monster from some retard yankee kaiju, clotheslining a waddling mother of four wearing a five kitten sweater, lifting knees into the unsuspecting balls of henpecked fathers, and swatting away children into cardboard teen pop idol displays, like flies being splattered on the windshield of an SUV speeding towards the big box apocalypse. You finally make it to the sales display and death grip the cardboard box with your bacon greased fingers, lifting it over your head like it was the holiest of holy grails. 

So, after all that trouble, you pay $20 for the privilege of waiting an hour in line to ship it to some asshole relative you haven’t seen in three years. That makes no fucking sense. Why put on a monstrous display of material selfishness only to give away the fruits of your rampage under the empty guise of unselfishness? If you’re going to be selfish, at least be honest about it. That way, you’ll at least feel a modicum of shame when you’re watching porn on your brand new iPad and a Sally Struthers commercial comes on where she begs money for a four-year-old Ethiopian boy who was so starved he chewed his own hands off. That’s all I’m asking for folks. 


There was a time in America (the 90’s) when Arnold Schwarzenegger, a movie star ubermensch with a thick Austrian accent and a 22” neck, was considered the white bread all-American dad. This was just taken for granted. I don’t remember a scene in True Lies where somebody explains that “Harry Tasker” was a German steroid freak who somehow parlayed that into a job as a U.S. secret agent. I guess you could say that America embraced him as one of their own because of his hugely successful 80’s action roles. Either that, or people going to see an Arnold movie don’t give a shit about little character details like that. I dunno. 

Either way, “Howard Langston” (hopefully named in tribute to Murray Langston aka The Unknown Comic) lives a modern capitalist conundrum. Namely, he has to work long hours to be able to afford to buy his kid all the shit he wants in order to make him happy, but that means he doesn’t have time to spend with his kid, which he needs to do in order to make him happy. One lesson that kids are rarely taught is that you should expect one or the other. Either you get to play catch with dad or you get the MLB Playstation game, but not both. You know what, lowered expectations are a good idea in general. That way, you’ll be better equipped to deal with the abject horror and emptiness that life has to offer.


Anyway, “Mr. Langston” is working late one day and ends up missing his son’s karate class. I didn’t even know parents attended their kid's karate classes, yet this thing has a bigger crowd than your average WNBA game. Not only does Arnold’s superdad neighbor Phil Hartman attend the class to see his tubby son awkwardly kick a wooden plank, he records everything on a state-of-the-art hi-8 camcorder. He also brings a reindeer home to his son and even helps Arnold’s wife with the cooking. Hartman lip smackingly rubs his perfect fatherliness in Arnold’s face at every turn, making it constantly clear to him just how inadequate he is as a dad. This leads to some nice scowling from Arnold in Hartman’s direction, as if to say “muthafucka, I’m the Terminator!”. 


Most important of all, Hartman bought his son a Turboman doll way before it was sold out but Arnold was too busy working to pick up the doll. It is now Christmas Eve, and he needs to find one to save Christmas for his annoying brat. You’d imagine Arnold would be able to handle this after blowing up the Predator, but part of the fun is seeing Arnold repeatedly fail in his quest, like the scenes in Kindergarten Cop where he can’t handle a classroom filled with kids. As Hartman puts it at one point, “you can’t benchpress your way out of this one”. 


That’s the setup for this family film that, despite the goofy overacting by supporting characters and the overbearing sledgehammer family friendly score, has satire on its mind. Take, for example, the scene where a toy store hands out lottery balls for the privilege of buying a toy that was decreed as a “must have” by corporate interests, and the balls are knocked up in the air and go flying everywhere. Desperate parents crawl around and knock each other over to grab one of the balls, like rabid junkies scrambling to scoop up the contents of a heroin piƱata that just got blown open by a crowbar. This is all to the tune of “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year”, ironically summing up the holidays in one mad scramble. 

Then there’s Arnold’s kid, who recites the entirety of the Turbo Man commercial when selling it his dad, even including the “batteries not included” bit, and adds that he’ll be a “real loser” if he doesn’t have the doll. The point is clear. The advertising industry turns children into robots who are pitted against each other in a playground game of high stakes materialism where everybody loses except for the stockholders, just so they can better grow up to be dutiful consumers that repeat this cycle of horror as pawns in Dante’s 10th circle of hell, the part that is basically one giant shopping mall. Well, it was clear to me anyway. 

Impeding his progress is Sinbad, wearing post office blue instead of his more standard black guy Zubaz attire. He’s basically a slightly worse version of the desperate Arnold, resorting to threatening people with a bomb in order to get a Turboman, where as Arnold merely resorts to breaking and entering to get the doll. Arn also punches a reindeer in the face at one point, perhaps an homage to his camel punching in Conan the Barbarian. Not only do these antics provide violent slapstick for families to enjoy and stoners to enjoy and stoner families to enjoy, but it is also a manifestation of the madness of unchecked materialism, where human beings are reduced to rabid buffoons willing to sell their mothers to Taiwanese sex dealers in order to keep up with the Joneses. 


I guess the ultimate lesson is that if you have to choose between playing catch with dad or getting the MLB Playstation game, choose playing catch. Those are real human moments that can’t be replicated with a game or a toy. Unless of course your dad is a drunk piece of shit or throws like a girl, in which case, go with the video game and be thankful you at least got something out of the deal.  Oh, and merry Christmas!

4 comments:

  1. While I do appreciate that the satire of Black Friday was pretty ahead of its time, I remember thinking this was an incredibly mean-spirited and aggressively not-funny film. The Sinbad stuff seemed offensive, and I hate the USPS!

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    1. I don't remember exactly, but I probably didn't like it when I saw it in the theater, but maybe I was too cool for school. The Sinbad stuff is offensive, but watching it with no kids around is kinda amusing. Besides, it was the mid-90s, times were different then.

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  2. Ah, the memories of Jingle All The Way. I don't know what it is about that film that makes me want to watch it every Christmas whenever it's on TV, even though it is without question a ridiculous/awful film. I ended up experiencing the real life Xmas JATW last year, though, when I briefly worked in retail. It truly exists...

    Great review, dude. Just found your blog and loving your writing style (also really digging your layout).

    Followed on blogger and Twitter!

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    1. Thank you. Yeah, and the shit is basically a documentary with two leads hamming it up.

      Thanks! Likewise!

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