Netflix original holiday movie “Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey” aims to transport you to a magical world but falls short.
Set in the fictional town of Cobbleton, the movie follows legendary toymaker Jeronicus Jangle (Forest Whitaker/Justin Cornwell) whose fanciful inventions burst with whimsy and wonder.
But when his trusted apprentice Gustafson (Keegan-Michael Key/Miles Barrow) steals his most prized creation, it’s up to his equally bright and inventive granddaughter (Madalen Mills) and a long-forgotten invention to heal old wounds and reawaken the magic within.
Going into this movie was fully aware of what the aim is and set my expectations accordingly. And don’t get me wrong, I love musicals. When “Frozen II” came out I drove my flatmates insane by having “Into The Unknown” and “Show Yourself” on repeat.
“Hamilton” also sent me deep into a musical stanning spiral which again drove the people I live with insane. But as I continued watching “Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey” several small annoyances became glaring plot holes as the film progressed.
Let’s start with the good parts. The costume design, CGI and overall look for the movie musical is spectacular.
You are transported to this mystical world that comes across as a mixture of “The Wizard of Oz” mixed with the world of “The Greatest Showman”. And speaking of the Hugh Jackman led surprise hit, the dance choreography – done by the same choreographer Ashley Wallen – for the most, is wonderful.
The overall idea and premise is good especially having a cast full of black people since there aren’t many black-led holiday movies in the fantasy genre.
However, where this Christmas movie falls flat in is actor casting, world-building, pacing, character motivations and the music.
And as an aside: This is a request to all studios that make fantasy family-oriented films.
Can we please stop killing the protagonist’s spouse/one parent in the first 10 min of a film? We are tired of seeing it and the emotional moment is gone since it happens in almost every film.
And while the respective actors that portray the young and old Jeronicus and Gustafson look nothing alike, it didn’t bother me.
However, I couldn’t move past the fact that young Jessica is played by Diaana Babnicova who is light-skinned with 3B/C hair and then her older version is played by the phenomenal Anika Noni Rose who is about six shades darker with 4B/C hair. Make it make sense, please?
The character motivations make very little sense especially our antagonist Gustafson who gets bullied by a sentient doll and turns against Jeronicus for no reason.
Gustafson’s motivation for turning on Jeronicus is so paper-thin you could see right through it and could have been solved by a simple conversation.
And that leads to the weird pacing. The movie never finds a grove and it feels as if the director and screenwriter David E. Talbert looked at classic holiday and Disney films and tried to hit the same plot beats, but with no consideration as to how we get to each plot point.
This music is OK but it’s nothing special and you’ll forget it as soon as you are done watching it.
And for a musical to not grip you with the music is never a good thing.
The music set pieces are also placed in strange spots and don’t feel organic.
While I do appreciate the hip hop, gospel and afrobeat infusion into the theatrical style of music.
I’m pleading with choreographers who wanna include African dance styles to please use the correct dance move with the genre of music.
Not a single soul on the African continent does the Gwara Gwara while Burna Boy is playing. Also, we left he Gwara Gwara in 2018 – you should too.
One of the biggest pet peeves in any fantasy film is when world-building isn’t done properly.
And while I give holiday films more leeway since they are mostly a one-and-done the least you can do as the screenwriter is a short exposition scene to explain how the magic, science or combination of the two work.
All we get here is that you have to believe. I had the same problem with “A Wrinkle In Time” where the pseudoscience was explained through love.
I know I often harp on this a lot, but would it have killed them to put at least one queer character in?
There was a great opportunity with one of the characters but again when it comes to “family-friendly“ content the queer community gets sidelined.
The acting is fine, Forest and Anika both give what you expecting from them. Keegan-Michael is there and the child actors are serviceable.
Overall, the idea of the movie is great and the set design along with the costuming is phenomenal.
If you have small kids then they will enjoy it, however, has an adult this isn’t gonna transport you to childhood or make you believe.
“Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey” is currently streaming on Netflix.
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