Jingle Jangle

Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey

Dept. of Mythical Mathematics


I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen Forest Whitaker be someone other than Forest Whitaker on screen. Don’t get me wrong, the man is a legend, but he has, over the years, become so settled into that signature style of his that it’s become increasingly difficult to separate the man from the character. Be it Saw Gerrera, or Zuri, or Idi Amin, I was always aware that I was witnessing a Forest Whitaker performance. Until now. Until Jingle Jangle.

Hidden behind a spectacularly heavy beard, and a tremendous Afro, Whitaker transforms himself into Jeronicus Jangle. Now, you will no doubt recognise the gentle lilt of his voice, those sad eyes, and his gracious, almost meek, demeanour, but there is a theatricality to this particular part, not to mention some precise comic timing, that made me forget the actor, and revel instead, in his role.

Jingle Jangle

The story here is deceptively simple. Jeronicus Jangles was the world’s greatest inventor until his woebegone apprentice, Gustafson (Keegan-Michael Key), is inveigled by a sweet singing marionette (who just happens to sound like Ricky Martin) into stealing indefinitely borrowing his big book of inventions and flipping their respective fates. Broken by the loss of his life’s work, and then later by the untimely death of his wife, Jeronicus ends up being a shadow of the jovial and jiving man he once was. Alienating himself from his daughter, as well as the rest of the town, his once thriving store, Jangles and Things, becomes a pawnshop and he becomes a recluse.


Gustafson, meanwhile, goes on to become the most celebrated toymaker in all the land, he’s rich, he’s beloved, and he even has a groovy green suit, and cape, and top hat. It is an injustice for the ages and one that clearly cannot stand in a Christmas movie.

Enter Journey, Jeronicus’ long neglected granddaughter, played by the utterly charming Madalen Miles, who is cute as a button, and with a fine singing voice to boot. It turns out that she too has the family’s flair for inventing, but even more than that, the key to Jangle’s own inspiration.

Jingle Jangle

Jingle Jangle is a lot of movie. There are massive musical numbers, and animated storybook interludes, there are puppets brought to life and flying robots, there’s Hugh Bonneville and Phylicia Rashad, it’s Charles Dickens meets Mortal Engines, and it should be absolutely exhausting. Only it isn’t. Everyone here is having such a great time that it’s infectious.

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You’re hooked from the second that opening number kicks off. Taking its cues from Hamilton, “This Day” is a snappy, optimistic, and hopeful tune that seamless blends hip-hop and musical theatre, setting the tone and introducing us to the magical world in which we’re about to spend the next two hours. It’s a real toe-tapper that explodes onto our screens.

From there, the music trips and traverses through a multitude of genres, from pure R&B, to jazz, to an Afrobeat dance-off during a snowball fight. All of it fun and bursting with energy. With lyrics from heavy hitters like Philip Lawrence and John Legend, and a phenomenal score by John Debney (SeaQuest DSV), you would expect nothing less.

Jingle Jangle

Did I mention that Jingle Jangle is a lot of movie? Every frame is crammed full of colour and glamour. It’s pop and pizzaz. It is an absolute frenzy of twirls and whirls, of spins and jumps.

If there’s one movie that Jingle Jangle reminded me of, it’s The Greatest Showman. Michael Gracey’s oddly paced, often disjointed, and occasionally ridiculous pseudo-history of P.T. Barnum was an easy movie to pick apart. But to approach it with a critical eye would be to ignore sentiment and emotion. To do so would be to turn a blind eye to an intrinsically loveable quality that simply cannot be explained through the vocabulary of criticism. It disregards the fact that sometimes the whole can be far greater than the sum of its parts. It discounts magic.

Sure, Jingle Jangle is a little silly. And God knows I could have done without another “dead mother as character motivation” plot point. But it makes up for it with its ability to spark delight.

Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey
122 minutes
Director: David E. Talbert
Writer: David E. Talbert
Cast: Forest Whitaker, Keegan-Michael Key, Hugh Bonneville, Anika Noni Rose, Madalen Mills, Phylicia Rashad, Ricky Martin, and Buddy 3000.

Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey is now streaming on Netflix.

Uma has been reviewing things for most of his life: movies, television shows, books, video games, his mum's cooking, Bahir's fashion sense. He is a firm believer that the answer to most questions can be found within the cinematic canon. In fact, most of what he knows about life he learned from Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. He still hasn't forgiven Christopher Nolan for the travesties that are Interstellar and The Dark Knight Rises.

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