Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey

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Madalen Mills in Jingle Jangle.
Madalen Mills in Jingle Jangle.
Photo: Netflix


4/5 Stars


Decades after his trusted apprentice betrayed him, a once joyful toymaker finds new hope when his kind and curious granddaughter comes into his life.


The Christmas spirit might be a little less sparkly in 2020, but one thing you can count on is that streaming platforms and cinemas will be pumped full of holiday cheer.

One offering is Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey - Netflix's latest from the musical genre, complete with original music by Grammy-winning legends and A-list stars. For the more Scrooge-hearted folk it might look like someone threw up every Christmas trope they could find onto a blank screen, but for any Broadway fan and those who have a special love for tinsel and magic, Jingle Jangle is a delightful topsy-turvy extravaganza about finding faith in people again, the importance of family and believing in your own phenomenal talents.

But the film is more than just a heartwarming Christmas story. It's a fantasy tale featuring a predominantly black cast, including Forest Whitaker, Keegan-Michael Key and Anika Noni Rose, in a movie that isn't about gangsterism or slavery. Written and directed by playwright David E Talbert, with music from John Legend and Philip Lawrence, it features the black voice outside of struggle and oppression and reframes it in magic and joy.

It follows the life of Jeronicus Jangle - a genius toymaker betrayed by a jealous apprentice - who loses his family. Years later, his granddaughter arrives on his doorstep and reignites his passion to make the world a little more wonderful with his creations.

The world is a kaleidoscope of frivolity and brilliant colours in what must have been a costume designer's dream job, while the set design, exquisite animation and music, thrusts you headfirst into a full-blown Christmas experience. I love a classic musical and the Jingle Jangle songs tick all the boxes for memorable zingers with a hint of Hamilton inspiration. I never knew about Whitaker's singing prowess, and newcomer Madalen Mills who plays Journey, is so adorably cheerful with her young, bright-eyed voice, standing her own alongside the powerhouse vocals of Rose, who voiced Disney's Tiana from The Princess and the Frog. For music and dancing alone, the film is a superb piece of pure entertainment.

And don't forget the charm of an obnoxious Ricky Martin - a delectable surprise in the form of a self-centred matador toy that steals every scene he is in.

However, sometimes the unfettered mechanics of the film take you right out of the magic. As with any fantasy film, the audience is required to engage in a certain level of suspension of disbelief - as long as the fictional universe adheres to its own rules. Jingle Jangle merges science and magic into one, with theorems for abstract ideas, such as possibility and belief.

Throughout most of the film, it's easy enough to grasp this concept and delight in self-thinking toys and law-breaking physics. Unfortunately, it can take it one step too far where you're suddenly yanked out of this magical universe and start questioning the nonsense of it all. Specifically for me, it was the flying robot that can make others fly. The impracticality of it just broke the rhythm of the movie somewhat.

While there is a lot more that doesn't make much sense, Jingle Jangle remains a silly, yet endearing, holiday film that has the potential to be a classic in the making. It's a little slice of Christmas cake - fruity, yet it hits just the right spot for this time of year.



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