JINGLE JANGLE: A colorful and joyous new holiday classic
Right around this time of year, folks start daydreaming about their favorite holiday movies, even posting mini-quizzes on social media to see who loves what.
It’s a safe bet that “Jingle Jangle” is about to get added to lots of those lists.
Subtitled “A Christmas Journey,” the brand-new Netflix release offers show-stopping tunes, solid performances and a bit of comedy, romance and action -- plus plenty of upbeat closure at the end.
To get a sense of its magic, try imagining a blend of “Christmas Carol,” “WALL-E” and “The Greatest Showman.” But such comparisons are unfair, because “Jingle Jangle” is virtually unique -- at least among holiday movies.
Oscar-winner Forest Whitaker stars as Jeronicus Jangle, a 19th-century British inventor whose career crashes after an apprentice steals his latest creation -- along with a notebook jam-packed with gadgets and designs.
When Jangle’s wife dies shortly thereafter, the poor fellow loses all hope, happiness and ambition -- even to the point of estranging his tender-hearted daughter; as the years go by after she moves away, Jeronicus gradually grows into the grumpy and grouchy proprietor of a failing pawn shop.
Enter Journey, the clever, sunny and irrepressible granddaughter he’s never met. With some help from a kind but klutzy shop assistant named Edison, Journey will reignite Jangle’s joy, while also tangling with the grown-up Gustafson, a now-famous inventor still riding on the riches he mined from Jangle’s stolen notes.
The story is a bit thin and predictable for 122 minutes of run-time; yet “Jingle Jangle” never drags. It is carried by a tremendous cast, with Whitaker bringing great depth and nuance to what is essentially a stock character (the bitter old misanthrope who needs redemption).
Madalen Mills is sensational as young Journey -- lighting up her every scene like a cinematic sunbeam radiating cheer and determination. Newcomer Lisa Davina Phillip is wonderful as a flirtatious widow; and Keegan-Michael Key makes a grand villain, nicely avoiding caricature with a few notes of hesitant humanity and remorse. The cast also includes Phylicia Rashad, Hugh Bonneville and Ricky Martin as a tiny, self-centered robotic matador (there’s a phrase you won’t see very often).
Even better than the cast is “Jangle’s” slate of irresistible tunes (yes, Whitaker does his own singing -- and quite respectably at that). John Debney’s incidental score is likewise effectively robust and moving.
The songs are fleshed out with dazzling choreography -- and best of all, the whole thing rides on a palette of lavish, lush and lovely visuals: eye-popping costumes and gigantic sets simply bursting with detail and color.
Nostalgic, family friendly and luscious to look at, “Jingle Jangle” is an early and much-needed holiday gift for movie-lovers young and old.
Don’t wait till Christmas to unwrap it.
* * * (out of four)
directed by David E. Talbert
Run time: 122 min.
Rated PG for mature themes and action peril