Directed by: David E. Talbert
Premise: A musical fantasy about an inventor (Forest Whitaker) whose book of toy ideas is stolen by his apprentice. The inventor struggles for years until his granddaughter (Madalen Mills) joins his shop and discovers a long abandoned toy robot.
What Works: Jingle Jangle is a holiday-themed fantasy film and the picture’s strongest asset is its whimsy. The movie has a feel that is similar to classic Disney live action musicals like Mary Poppins and Bedknobs and Broomsticks. The picture takes place in a hypothetical nineteenth century town where the community members speak with a mix of British and American accents and people of different races comingle. The inventor’s technology is a deliberate anachronism and in the prologue sequence he gives life to a doll that turns on his creator and corrupts the inventor’s apprentice. The whimsical nature of Jingle Jangle is reflected in its impressive set and costume design. The art direction possesses an effective mix of artificiality and lived in worldliness; the streets of this town resemble a ceramic Christmas village and the people look authentically of this fantastical place. The music of Jingle Jangle is fun and the songs mix contemporary sounds with the classic setting. The combination shouldn’t work—the hip hop influenced musical numbers should be at odds with the nineteenth century location—but they fit together quite seamlessly. The performances are pitched appropriately. Forest Whitaker, who isn’t generally associated with musical films, impresses as the inventor. Whitaker carries much of the dramatic weight of the story as a man who has lost faith in himself and must recover his mojo in order to save his store. Whitaker is paired with Madalen Mills as Journey, the inventor’s granddaughter. Mills is the life of the show and Journey bonds with her grandfather in ways that hit the right emotional notes without getting too schmaltzy.
What Doesn’t: Jingle Jangle suffers from sluggish pacing. The opening of the film is full of musical energy but this is all a prologue. Jingle Jangle takes quite a while before it gets to the actual story. Once Journey arrives at her grandfather’s toyshop the movie takes its time getting into their adventure and the middle of the movie is mostly flat. There’s little tension and conflicts don’t really escalate until quite late in the movie. The musical numbers are fun but they rarely advance the story or the characters. They’re more like musical interludes and while the songs are good and well performed the musical set pieces lack the storytelling economy that would make them engaging.
DVD extras: Currently available on Netflix.
Bottom Line: Jingle Jangle is an enjoyable holiday fantasy. The storytelling is baggy but the film manages to be the cinematic equivalent of a holiday treat—sugary and colorful—and Jingle Jangle is the kind of family-friendly entertainment that pairs well with the season.
Episode: #832 (December 27, 2020)