The movie “Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey” is a two-hour Netflix musical released on Nov 13, 2020, written and directed by American author and filmmaker, David E. Talbert, starring Forest Whitaker and Madalen Mills.
‘Jingle Jangle’ is a magical Christmas movie centered around a Black family with messages about faith and self-confidence. At the beginning of the movie, there are two young children debating whether or not there’s magic in the fire. The little girl sees something, but her brother thinks there’s nothing there. When their grandmother appears, she notices that the little girl is sad after her brother proposes to read the Christmas tale: “The Night Before Christmas”, so grandma decides to read a new story, instead. She grabs an object that looks like a mix between a book and a clock and gathers the children around. After blowing some sparkling dust off, the grandmother reads: “The Invention of Jeronicus Jangle”, at which point, the clock-like mechanism is activated, and everything starts rotating. This story is special because the granddaughter notices that her grandma has never read this story before, and the sweet, old lady replies that she’s never read this story to anyone.
As the grandmother starts narrating the tale, the audience is brought into an extraordinary miniature world, inside the clock-looking book. There, little dolls come to life turning into people, and children are excited to see the most magical shop that there ever was: “Jangles and Things”. As kids enter the shop, they are surrounded by toys, bizarre animals, and flying balloons. Jeronicus Jangle is a toymaker known to be inspiring to all, even to his “trusted” apprentice, Gustafson (played by Keegan-Michael Key).
This film offers a beautiful choreography of dances in costumes with warm Christmas colors; the music and singing are also great, and they definitely concur to create an incredible atmosphere. The CGI effects of all the magical creations in this movie are remarkable and spectacular.
When Mr. Jangle appears for the first time, the audience learns that he’s been waiting for the last piece of his new toy to arrive, so that he can complete his masterpiece. As grandma recites, “The key to unlocking his wildest dreams and changing his life forever.”
When the part finally arrives, Jangle goes into his studio to finish his masterpiece, a little Spanish bullfighter toy named Maestro Don Juan Diego. The first conflict arises when Jangle says that soon there will be millions of the Don Juan toys, one for every child in the world, and the sassy, little toy protests that he’s one of a kind. As it turns out, Don Juan is very much alive, and with his own agenda: he bribes Gustafson (Mr. Jangle’s apprentice) to “borrow indefinitely” the title of inventor of the toy so that he can remain the one and only.
As years go by, while Gustafson has become rich and famous creating phenomenal toys thanks to Jangle’s book of inventions, Jangle has lost everything, and the bank collector Mr. Delacroix informs him that he’s about to lose his well-loved, magical store. Delacroix gives him an ultimatum: to either return the money that he borrowed from the bank by Christmas (which is only a few days away), or he’ll have to come up with the revolutionary invention he once promised. ”
This fantastic musical explores important themes of betrayal and corruption, when Don Juan convinces Gustavson to betray Jangle, for example, but also of justice, when the guards can finally see who is the real impostor, or when Jangle gets the recognition he deserves; of family ties and estranged family members’ reunions, when Journey, Jessica, and Jangle reunite; of special gifts passed down generations, just like the one Jessica and Journey inherit from Jangle, and of the magic and power of belief when Buddy 3000 works only when people have faith that he will.
The humor of the characters’ dialogue is also what makes this film unique: when Journey begins to read the letter that her mother gave her for Jangle, she goes, “Dear Father” and Jangle immediately interrupts with, “Allegedly.” Or when Jangle asks Journey, “Are you hungry?” and then he adds, “I have one egg, we can split it.” And again, after Journey hugs and repeatedly kisses him on the cheek before going to her bedroom, Jangle tells her, “You hurry back as slowly as you can.” The dialogue is hilarious, and so is the relationship it sets up among the characters.
Both Jangle and his adversary are looking for something “revolutionary” at this point, but Gustafson’s flying inventions are dangerous: when one of them ends up frying the face of one of the dancers, the notoriety of the apprentice starts shaking. Don Juan suggests they steal another of Jangle’s inventions.
The happy holidays’ signature in this musical is carried on by the funny interactions of the characters, for example during the snowball fight initially between Journey and Jangle, and then slowly involving the whole town, or when flirtatious Mrs. Johnston appears from behind her truck’s door with a little branch of mistletoe, asking Jangle, “How did that get there?”
There are many hilarious moments in the movie woven together with a feeling of suspense about not only Gustafson trying to steal Jangle’s inventions again but also about Jangle being still able to believe in himself and his inventions.
Unfortunately, there wouldn’t be a story without conflict. Journey and Edison embark on a mission to find the robot and enter the theatre where Gustafson is trying to peddle Buddy 3000 as his own invention, but the robot doesn’t work, because Gustafson doesn’t believe it.
After the family is reunited, Jangle and his daughter work on putting Buddy the robot back together. But there’s an extra step to take in order for it to work: Jangle has to believe. Will he be able to believe again, like he once did? This surreal musical surely brings the audience into a magical and memorable adventure.
As grandma finishes telling the story, and they can all finally see the magic in the fire, the children and the audience simultaneously discover a secret… And it’s a merry, merry Christmas for all.
The music in this film is cheerful and the songs are beautiful and convey enthusiasm, especially when associated with the magnificent dances in costumes. The wardrobe is also very colorful and original, sort of a mix between 18th-century dresses and clothes from a magical tale populated by elves and goblins. Forest Whitaker’s acting is superb, as usual, and the rest of the cast is just as talented and marvelous.
I would definitely recommend this musical, not only because it’s fun but also suitable for the whole family, but also because it is full of pathos, with sprinkled drops of wisdom here and there. I would rate it a 9 out of 10 only because even though it was delightful, it didn’t keep me engaged 100% at all times like other movies did in the past. Overall, it is a magical Christmas movie that’s worth watching, and that will warm people’s holidays and hearts.
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