For reasons that continue to baffle me, Jingle All the Way (1996) has sort of become a new holiday classic amongst my fellow millennials.
I know the potency of 90s-stalgia is overpowering to a lot of people in my age demographic, but the reality is that this comedy is aggressively mediocre and is mostly remembered for its cast, which included Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sinbad, Phil Hartman, and a pre-Episode I Jake Lloyd.
It’s possible that the plot even resonated with some parents at the time, since it involved two rival dads (Schwarzenegger and Sinbad) nearly killing each other to get their hands on the season’s hottest toy.
The influential meme economy also might have given this film some extra room in people’s collective memory now that there are more YouTube remixes of Schwarzenegger spouting the line “put that cookie down” than I care to count.
However, I do find it comforting that Gen Z movie buffs won’t remember Jingle All the Way 2 (2014) with the same resonance, if at all, because it’s just as bad as the first one but without the budget, weirdness, or Hollywood star power to pull the wool over people’s eyes.
Despite its name, Jingle All the Way 2 is a sequel in name only, since it doesn’t feature any characters from the original film.
Instead, we’re saddled with fake redneck Larry the Cable Guy acting out the same basic plot, where a father tries to secure his child’s affection during Christmas by buying a toy that every other kid is after.
To the filmmakers’ credit, they didn’t try and replicate the original story beat for beat, choosing instead to mimic its overall concept and structure, which left screenwriter Stephen Mazur plenty of room to fill in the blanks.
The problem is he decided to clog the runtime with a bunch of half-baked shenanigans that would barely prop up a half-hour of network television.
I hate to give the original Jingle All the Way any sort of compliment, but at least that movie had momentum. At least you were kind of invested in the cutthroat rat race between Schwarzenegger and Sinbad that served as the backbone of the story.
While Cable Guy is saddled with his own parental rival (his ex-wife’s new husband) in this straight-to-video sequel, their back-and-forth never really rises above passive aggressive sniping until the very end.
As a result, all we’re left with is the film’s attempts at physical comedy, which involves Larry getting electrocuted, thrown off a mechanical bull, and beaten up by old people.
While I’m not above a good prat fall or quality nut shot, these gags aren’t even well executed as the timing seems to be off by a couple seconds. It’s almost like the filmmakers thought they were shooting a TV sitcom and left room for canned audience laughter to be added in later.
Of course, the shift in quality between the two films is directly tied to the difference in budget, with the 1996 entry having the financial backing to pull off lots of grand spectacle.
For example, one of the film’s most memorable sets pieces features Schwarzenegger getting into a brawl with a bunch of black-market toy dealers before it is broken up by an entire precinct worth of police officers.
In Jingle All the Way 2, this same scene is staged between only a handful people, including a sparse trio of cops.
While having a small $5 million budget is a definite disadvantage, that doesn’t excuse the sheer level of incompetence on display from the screenwriter and director.
From a writing perspective, Mazur doesn’t even know how to structure this simple story, since one of the supporting characters blurts out the film’s moral 24 minutes in. After Larry is directly told that his daughter will love him no matter what, how are we, as an audience, supposed to remain invested in the story?
By revealing this information this early on, all we have to look forward to is Cable Guy’s manufactured working-class charm for the next hour.
In terms of providing fun holiday visuals for kids, I wouldn’t even recommend playing this movie on mute, because it mostly looks like shit.
The filmmakers made the baffling decision to shoot this movie near Vancouver, which isn’t known for its traditional festive scenery even in mid-December.
And since the Jingle All the Way 2 crew didn’t have the resources to transform soggy Langley into a winter wonderland, the production design looks rushed and slapped together, like they bought a bunch of discount holiday decorations the night before principal photography began.
Say what you will about the Christmas movies they mass produce for Netflix and the Hallmark Channel, but at least they put their money where it matters: set dressing and ambiance.
The people behind Jingle All the Way 2 couldn’t even be bothered to find a frozen lake for an exterior shot of an ice fishing shack and just provided a static image instead.
This is seriously a shot from the movie.
Even basic technical stuff like scene transitions are noticeably cheap, almost like they were ripped straight from Microsoft PowerPoint.
The only thing I can really say in the sequel’s favour is that the child actress who plays Cable Guy’s daughter (Kennedi Clements) is actually pretty charming and is a way better performer than Jake Lloyd in the original (although, in retrospect, that’s a pretty low bar to clear.)
Otherwise, the rest of the movie is a complete comedy dead zone and its mere existence as a low-effort, cash grab sequel emphasizes the absolute worst elements of the holiday: naked commercialism dressed up as a wholesome family entertainment.
The original Jingle All the Way is guilty of the same thing, sure, but the filmmakers behind that movie managed to inject some energy in the proceedings, something that this follow-up is sorely missing.
And I never thought I would type these words in any context, but this sequel desperately needed some Sinbad to liven things up.
Corner store companion:
Lindt Lindor chocolates (because you deserve to consume something of quality while watching this dreck)
-Release date: Dec. 2, 2014 (straight-to-video)
-Budget: $5 million
-Mercifully, Larry only shouts his signature catch phrase “git’ r done” once in this movie.
-Following Jingle All the Way 2, director Alex Zamm would go on to helm a bunch of regal holiday movies, including A Royal Christmas (2014), Crown for Christmas (2015) and A Christmas Prince (2017).
–Jingle All the Way 2 marks the feature film debut of Anthony Carelli, better known as WWE wrestler Santino Marella, who plays Larry’s best friend Claude.
– Jingle All the Way 2 is the 31st film that was produced by WWE Studios.
-Around 2014, WWE Studios made a habit of producing straight-to-video movies featuring intellectual properties from other companies. Outside of Jingle All the Way 2 (20th Century Fox), they also released Leprechaun: Origins (Lionsgate) and Scooby-Doo! WrestleMania Mystery (Warner Brothers) in that same year.