Saturday, December 17, 2011

25 Days of Christmas Movies, Day 17: Holiday Shopping Hell

I ventured out to get my last gifts for this season and yeck...remind me not to wait so long to finish up next year.  It was bedlam, with cars and people all over the place, in places they shouldn't be.  I nearly hit three or four pedestrians who stepped out in front of me at the last minute at Target and then couldn't help bumping into a few people while I perused the racks a JCPennys.  I'm sure it was much rougher on other people, one does have to consider that I only had two gifts to buy today and they must have had dozens.  Though, after today I can safely say that I am not going to enter any store until well after Christmas and I would like to add that there is a reason I do most of my shopping online.  This experience forms the basis for choosing today's film which feels like a greatest (or worst, depending on how you think about it) hits of last minute shopping at Christmas with a healthy helping of physical comedy thrown in to put it over the top.  If anyone has ever had to go to a store on Christmas Eve or tried to nab a hot product or toy on Black Friday, you can probably see some of your own experiences in this film as well as a few of the horror stories you might have only heard about.  However, I don't want to dissect the movie here and now...so let's jump right in and experience the madness of Jingle All The Way.

Howard Langston is a hard-working Dad who often forgets that he is a father.  His job demands his attention be spread to many different areas and given to many different people and it happens so much that he often sacrifices the two people he doesn't feel he needs to impress, his wife Liz and his son Jamie.  However, when Howard misses one too many of Jamie's events during this holiday season, his wife and son make it very clear that he has very few chances left to convince them that he wants to be a good father and husband.  Jamie offers Howard his final chance to impress him by telling him that he wants a Turbo Man action figure and Howard promises that he will get one.  Liz is thankful that Howard is being attentive and then asks him if he got the toy.  Howard is confused and knows he has not purchased the toy, but he lies and assures her he has.  She is relieved, considering that it is "the" toy to own this holiday season and, since tomorrow is Christmas Eve, they should be impossible to find.  This starts Howard on a day-long adventure where he is attempts to find the elusive Turbo Man, and is thwarted in each attempt by either his fellow shoppers or an equally resourceful mailman named Myron.  What then transpires are a series of misadventures that will test Howard's resolve and his love for his son.

Jingle All The Way is one of those films that is a really novel idea inspired by real events that is undermined by overt slapstick humor and an unrealistic finale.  It's a real shame too because it could be a much more enduring classic in the vein of Home Alone.  Ironically enough, it is the popularity of the former that inspired so many of the slapsticky, stunt heavy films that followed that didn't nearly resonate as well with the populous.  There's some good stuff here though, particularly the satire of the madness of the holiday shopping season.  It veers toward the surreal and grotesque of course, with store clerks gleefully egging these people on and laughing in Arnold Schwarzenegger's face, who plays Howard.  There is also the comic timing of Schwarzenegger, who proves again that he really can make us laugh.  I enjoy just about everything in this movie aside from the jerry-rigged slapstick which feels like an afterthough.  Yes, the scenes in the stores should be violent, but they should be violent in a way that makes us afraid for our protagonist's safety rather than humorous...which would fit the satirical element of the film much better.  Afterall, the writer wrote the film to comment on the people who had been trampled trying to get Cabbage Patch Dolls and Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers for their kids and making the violence in the stores cartoony robs the satire of its strength.  Although, if someone REALLY wanted to satirize the shopping season, they ought to make the protagonist one of the store clerks who has to fend off the hordes of rude and thoughtless shoppers that force them to be at work earlier in the day and later in the day every year because they HAVE to get the doorbusters.  Having the protagonist be a rather poor example of a father doesn't really give the audience a very sympathetic character to follow...because all the crap he goes through is only happening because he wasn't more aware of his family life to begin with.  I am being a little hard on the film right now, I admit, because it is a suspenseful and amusing (if not as hilarious as thinks it is) little romp that reminds us why we all should try to get our shopping done as early as possible so as to avoid "the horror...the horror!"

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