“Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey,” directed by David. E. Talbert, released on Netflix on Nov. 13, 2020. After a year of negativity and anxiety, Netflix gives audiences a fantasy musical centered around the magic of Christmas. Fortunately, the film succeeds in being a positive distraction, as well as a great introduction to the holiday season.
The film is told through the perspective of a story book. Said book tells the story of once-famed toy creator, Jeronicous Jangle, played by Forest Whitacre. In his younger years, Jeronicous’s reputation faltered after his book of invention blueprints were stolen by pupil Gustafson, played by Keegan-Michael Key. With Jeronicous now elderly and poverty-ridden, Jeronicous’s granddaughter Journey, played by Madalen Mills, attempts to reignite her grandfather’s passion for toy making. The plots certainly standard family musical affairs, with no major surprises.
Of course, many musicals are typically reliant on grandeur of presentation over plot complexity, especially those more family-oriented. Fortunately, there’s plenty of charm behind numerous aspects of the film. One particularly impressive aspect of the film was the animation. It’s always entertaining seeing the movement and mechanisms of toys in visual productions. A few scenes cleverly featured animated dolls acting out scenes as the narrator explains them. This was a great way to provide exposition and transition without the narrator constantly interrupting the film. Beyond the doll scenes, machinery was fluid in movement, adding to the high energy the film supports.
Another superb element to the film was costume design. Christmas movies are often known for having characters wearing vibrant dresses and suits. “Jingle Jangle” is no exception, as all characters dawn intricate and colorful outfits. I liked the subtle details which separate one group’s costume from another without weakening the movie’s style. For example, I love how the “top class” individuals had similar costumes to other citizens, with the rich dawning slightly more gold in attire.
My favorite set of outfits came from Journey, as there was a great balance between formality in color pallets while also being unique from the rest of the casts’ ensembles. I feel her dresses perfectly reinforced her personality, along with her motives to inspire her grandfather’s creativity.
Despite these visual elements being the film’s strongest characteristic, the film’s music was certainly solid. The songs, especially during the movie’s first half, we’re pleasing without being exceptional. There was unfortunately no song I found myself truly loving and/or wanting to replay after the film ended. A few songs, such as the introduction to Jeronicou’s toy shop, were also repetitive in terms of lyrics, thus feeling as if the song was extended way too long. Still, I’d imagine fans of more modern musicals would adore the film’s soundtrack.
The musical number scenes themselves seemed a bit off in terms of acting. As someone who’s been involved with musical theater, there was always a noticeable difference between a singer’s facial expression while singing and talking. Maybe I’m just mistaken, but there seemed to be little contrast between a singer belting a massive note and regular dialogue. The stagnation of expressions was strange and, at times, removed immersion from the spectacle.
While mentioning acting, it was decent. The actors playing each character were certainly likeable, once again adding to the film’s uplifting demeanor. There were a few moments, even outside of the musical numbers, where actors were not as emotional as the scene itself was trying to be. For example, it’s difficult to be impacted by a sentimental, climactic scene when actors emote similar to how they would in multiple other dialogue moments. In addition, awkward line deliveries occurred enough to slightly diminish the film’s quality.
The film’s editing was a bit overdone. Often when adapted to a feature film, musicals attempt to recapture elements of the original stage production. This film, albeit not an adaptation, featured too many cuts. Constantly removing focus from what is on screen makes it troubling to truly appreciate the clear work put forth by creators. The film had entertaining group choreography, but I wish I could have seen more instead of rapidly moving from one angle to another.
Cinematography was certainly fine. The film has a clean “Disney-esq” appearance, which was likely intended due to the established cheary aura.
Overall, I give “Jingle Jangle” an 8 out of 10. I am happy I found a movie that made me smile for a majority of its two-hour runtime. The film clearly has passionate individuals behind it, with the whimsical elements perfectly aligning with holiday cheer. If you like musicals and/or enjoy vigorously joyful holiday films, certainly check out this Netflix exclusive.