Finding your holiday spirit gets a flashy update in this dazzling musical
By Diana Beechener
Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey is available on Netflix
Toy maker Jeronicus Jangle (Forest Whitaker: Godfather of Harlem) brings joy to everyone in town. A renowned toy-inventor who brings joy and whimsy to children and adults alike, Jeronicus has a gift for finding the exactly right elements to make the perfect toy.
His wife and daughter inspire him to craft more and more elaborate toys, each a marvel of engineering. But Jeronicus’ apprentice, Gustafson (Keegan-Michael Key: All the Bright Places), is jealous of his mentor’s acclaim and decides to steal a bit of it for himself. Absconding with Jeronicus’ toy workbook and his latest invention on Christmas Eve, Gustafson takes off into the night to start his own toy company.
The betrayal by his beloved apprentice shakes Jeronicus to the core. He can’t seem to invent anymore, his business begins to crumble as Gustafson becomes a respected toymaker, and finally his wife collapses and dies in front of him. The weight of the loss is too much and Jeronicus locks himself away. He sends his daughter Jessica (Anika Noni Rose: Little Fires Everywhere) off to live with others, closes down his toyshop, and becomes a pawnbroker who does small repairs.
Decades later, Jeronicus is broken, joyless, and about to lose his business. He’s fine with fading into obscurity, but is surprised when a granddaughter he didn’t know he had, Journey (Madalen Mills in her feature debut), shows up. After a time, his granddaughter’s natural talents for inventing begin to impress him. Can Journey help Jeronicus find his inventive spark again?
In a year where we could all use a little razzle dazzle Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey is like a glitter-bomb of joy amid the bleak news. It combines spectacular musical numbers with the heartwarming holiday messages one expects from a Christmas movie. Director David E. Talbert (El Camino Christmas), infuses themes of faith, healing and music into a warm holiday romp that could likely become a staple of the season.
Talbert wisely keeps the tone light, and packs the catchy, fun songs with tons of visual punch and elaborate dance numbers. Talbert also cleverly uses animation to fit in large swaths of exposition without slowing the pacing of the film. It’s a great trick to keep younger viewers engaged when the plot gets complex.
At the center of the holiday cheer is the performance from Mills, who is a dazzling talent that easily carries scenes. She has a natural charisma that keeps Journey smart and fierce in her determination to reunite her family and find her place in the world. Mills also has a fun chemistry with Whitaker that enlivens their scenes together.
The film does try to pack a great deal into just two hours, which means plotlines and characters suffer occasionally. The romantic subplot resolves itself seemingly out of nowhere. A few characters are left underdeveloped at the expense of expedient storytelling. There’s a cameo from Downton Abbey’s Hugh Bonneville that seems especially shoehorned-in.
But in spite of a bit of plot bloat, Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey is a joyous, fun celebration of faith, magic, and family. If you’re looking for something beyond typical holiday fare, consider adding this movie to your watch list, a few of its songs will likely become staples of your seasonal soundtrack too.
Good Holiday Musical * PG * 122 mins.