I’ve rarely liked musicals, “La La Land” aside, so I had reservations about Netflix’s “Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey.” Yet, I found it rather charming and a nice break from the crushing weight of 2020.
Forest Whitaker is fantastic in every movie he does; “Jingle Jangle” is no exception. As aging toymaker Jeronicus Jangle, he has spent the last half of his life trying to come up with the next hit invention. Hubris seemingly got the better of him in his youth, when the apprentice he ignored stole blueprints for inventions and made a fortune. Down-and-out as a poor pawnbroker and estranged from his daughter, Jangle gets an unexpected visit from his precocious granddaughter, Journey.
Played by efficacious newcomer Madalen Mills, Journey is a bubbly spark to Jangle’s dreary holiday season. Along with the Steve Urkel-like assistant Edison (Kieron Dyer), Journey desires to help her grandfather rediscover his belief in the magic of toys.
My biggest gripe with musicals is that the performances often stop the plot cold, delaying story progress for mammoth song-and-dance routines. Thankfully, the musical numbers in “Jingle Jangle” are not only good but keep the story going both through words and action.
The effects are big-screen worthy: flying toys wonderfully come to life on the small screen. However, the setting is never quite clear. Early 20th century England, maybe? In any case, every background character looks like they are well-off. Only the very wealthy could possibly afford some of the lavish toys Jangle sells in his early years.
The best Christmas movies do the little things right. Without revealing all of this film’s sweet minutiae, one of the most joyous is the story-within-a-story featuring Phylicia Rashad. It was not a vital piece to the overall narrative, but it certainly enhanced the warm feelings at the end.
“Jingle Jangle” is the perfect family film. Sadly, this holiday season we may not be able to share the experience of watching it with our loved ones. As we yearn for Jeronicus to finally be reunited with his family, our empathy is entirely warranted. B+
Jeff Mellinger is a screen writer and film buff. He holds a BA in Film Studies and an MFA in film production. He lives in Concord. Email comments to email@example.com.