‘Tis the season for terrible Christmas movies

Kill it. Kill it with fire.

Sometimes I wonder if I just have bad taste, or if everyone else in the world does. My wife and I were beguiled by the advertising and reviews for this new movie on Netflix, Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey, “An instant classic!”, one review crowed, so we watched it the other day.

It jingle-jangled my brain.

OH MY GOD IT WAS SO BAD. This is a movie that tries desperately hard to be cheerful holiday fare that it crosses right over the line into creepy, and I was appalled in the first five minutes. All the characters have these intense nonstop grins splitting their faces and are so enthusiastic about everything that I was confident that the entire stage had been doses with smilex gas, and the show was a race to reach a conclusion before everyone collapsed in cackling death. There was no acting. There was only grimacing.

The plot: it’s about a toymaker who is famous for his inventions, although we’re not really shown any talent, or even any comprehension of what a child would want. In the opening, he builds a tiny and hyperkinetic matador doll that talks…and proves to be so egotistical that he ought to run for president, but has no personality other than an overwhelming narcissism. This creation is supposed to be the great new toy that will make him even more famous, but really, it’s a toy so lacking in charm that you just want to smash it. It might be a fine example of the worst evils of AI you can imagine, but nothing more.

The toymaker’s apprentice steals the matador and the notebooks with all his designs. Then we skip forward in time to learn that the toymaker became a babbling failure, is estranged from his own daughter, and the apprentice has become a success with an empire of toys. Enter the toymaker’s granddaughter, Journey, with a manic smile pasted on and a disturbingly optimistic can-do attitude. The rest of the movie consists of Journey using her ability to visualize mathematics as a kind of magic spell to animate stuff, including an ugly and pointless robot called Buddy 3000 that can fly and somehow enable people around him to fly. He’s activated by — I knew this was coming — belief. You just have to believe, and you can do anything.

Then there are sewer tunnels and explosions. Eventually the apprentice is defeated, and the toymaker vindicated, and he can return to making bad toys like the stupid matador and the big-headed Buddy 3000, all of which will go flying off the shelves, I guess. The only good moment is when the annoying matador is caught, and the toymaker flips off his power switch and announces that he will be reprogramming it, which is also rather disquieting. The matador was stupidly obnoxious and irrelevant to the story, but he did have a personality, icky as it was, and desires and feelings, and the master could just erase and reprogram it all. I guess that’s our Christmas message: if you’re loud and annoying and overly-excited about Christmas, we can shut you down and silence you.

It was apparently intended to be a stage production translated to Netflix, and it shows. Those smiles are designed so that even the kids in the nosebleed seats at Jingle Jangle on Ice would be able to seem them, and everything was so broadly done that there was no need for nuance or subtlety in plot or character or atmosphere. It was just LOUD and JANGLY and RELENTLESS. It also looked EXPENSIVE, with lots of elaborate sets and intense CGI animation. I’m wondering how much money they had to spend to get all those good reviews, too.

Oh, I almost forgot. It’s also a musical. I guess it was understandable that I forgot, because I can’t remember a single tune from the thing.


  1. consciousness razor says

    Sometimes I wonder if I just have bad taste, or if everyone else in the world does.

    Why not both? It’s certainly possible that you and everyone else in the world just have different forms of bad taste.

  2. microraptor says

    Ugh, Netflix keeps advertising this film in spite of the fact that I’d rather pass another kidney stone that watch it.

    I really have no idea how such films get made- it’s like the flimmakers don’t know any real kids and were never kids themselves so have absolutely no handle on what kids actually like.

    Also, does the film explain why the original toymaker becomes a failure without his notebook? Does he suddenly lose all his skills? Is it a magic notebook?

  3. seanpatgallagher says

    You lost me at, “Its also a musical.” Talk about burying the lede! That was the last line of your post. Thanks for saving me from this fate, however.

  4. Rob Grigjanis says

    It was just LOUD and JANGLY and RELENTLESS. It also looked EXPENSIVE, with lots of elaborate sets and intense CGI animation.

    The stuff that blockbusters are made of these days. Yeah, I’m watching a good movie right now on TCM.

  5. AstroLad says

    At least wasn’t one of the Hallmark Channel’s Christmas romance movies that give you Type 2 diabetes just reading the title.

  6. christoph says

    Similar theme in “Return to Oz,” a Bill Cosby animated holiday special from years ago: “Belief and faith can bring your dead friends back to life.” One of the three things I’ll never forgive Bill Cosby for.

  7. René says

    @3 I’m in the Dutch Grammer Police. Have been denied a promotion recently.

    Currently trying to get a position in the Comma Squad: I’ll use your smart comma in the title to secure my next position. Your opening quote should be just a modest apostrophe.

  8. whheydt says

    It’s too damned early for Christmas stuff. Four weeks of it after Thanksgiving is bad enough without bleeding it earlier. Bah. Humbug.

  9. nomdeplume says

    PZ, you seem to be doing the movie equivalent of one of those volunteers being injected with coronavirus vaccines in their testing stage. I hope you don’t develop side effects…

  10. davidc1 says

    @7 Yeah ,The Maltese Falcon ,great Novel ,great film ,great casting .But TCM only have about 200films (it seems) in their Library. So they get repeated again, and again .
    And is there any way i can buy up every copy of White christmas ,and burn them? And talking of Films ,the Dr is still getting more and more like Number one French guy from The French Connection .

  11. PaulBC says

    I’m shocked, since predictions of “instant classics” usually have such a good track record. Or does that only work when it’s on a discount DVD at Rite-Aid?

  12. wzrd1 says

    Apparently the writer and entire production had a bottomless budget, with the goal of not being “A $2.00 movie”. It was also revealed to demand the full use of the writer’s imagination and “took 22 years to come about”.
    Wikipedia has a more comprehensive plot of the movie.
    Frankly, doesn’t sound worthy of pirating, let alone paying to watch.

    Largely, because it’s as fulfilling as a bowl of saccharin. A chemical with a far more compelling history story behind, largely due to its discovery today would result in massive OSHA fines.

  13. Rob Grigjanis says

    Oh fuck, it’s almost time for the horror of multiple showings of It’s a Wonderful Life on telly. God I hate that film.

    Give me Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence any day.

  14. efogoto says

    @4 microraptor:

    Also, does the film explain why the original toymaker becomes a failure without his notebook? Does he suddenly lose all his skills? Is it a magic notebook?

    With the betrayal of his apprentice and the loss of his notebook, he loses confidence in himself and his belief in his work.

    At the end of the movie, there is a complete reversal of all his misfortunes when his granddaughter gets him to believe again and the thieving apprentice is made to return everything to him.

  15. hemidactylus says

    The Grisham-Tim Allen tie in Skipping ChristmasChristmas with the Kranks cringeworthy duo is ready made for holiday hell reading-watching.

  16. hemidactylus says

    Followed by Tim Allen in The Santa Clause and a marathon of Home Improvement holiday themed reruns. Because nothing says holidays like Tim Allen. Why? I don’t know. Kinda forgot the reason for the previous post. Christmas cheer? Kris Kringeworthy?

  17. PaulBC says

    Does Mean Girls count as a Christmas movie? (More than Galaxy Quest anyway. Tim Allen is a Trump supporter who writes “Carl Marx” but that was a funny movie.)

  18. birgerjohansson says

    Ah, yes, smilex gas, the most cheerful way to murder people. I thought I was the only one to remember that.
    There is a whole bunch of christmas-themed horror films, going back to the seventies.
    My personal favourite is a spoof from Finland called “Rare Imports” or something like that. Archaeologists dig up the entity that originated the Santa myth, a very scary old critter….

  19. birgerjohansson says

    The most bloody Santa film is the Sourh Park episode where Stevie and Brian take over from santa.
    Much recommended.

  20. says

    birgerjohansson (#30) –

    Granted, the SWCS is one of the worst shows ever on TV.

    But anyone who says it’s the worst has never seen “KISS meets the phantom”.

  21. christoph says

    @ birgerjohansson, # 30: There’s a new Star Wars Holiday special out-this time with Legos. This one actually looks good.

  22. davidc1 says

    @29 Have you seen one of the xmas Futurama’s ,Santa thinks everyone has been naughty ,and tries to kill them ,pity he is mad he might on to something .
    He is armed with an Anti Tank missile ,he has the wonderful line ,”Your Mistletoe Is No Match for My TOW Missile “.

  23. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    speaking of Christmas movies: I don’t understand why Die Hard has moved into the Christmas movie genre.
    Just because it occurs during Christmas, and he keeps monologuing about it, doesn’t make it a Christmas movie in my book.

  24. GMBigKev says


    Die Hard is Christmas-adjacent.

    The test as to whether a movie is a Christmas movie or a Christmas-adjacent movie is simple – “can this movie occur during any other date?” If no, it’s a Christmas movie. If yes, it’s a Christmas-adjacent movie. While the trappings of Christmas are important to the plot of Die Hard (Christmas party, large amount of liquid assets around the change of the fiscal year, fewer folks in the building due to the holiday) there is no single element that would fail if it were, instead, a Thanksgiving party, or just the company celebrating a big sale.

  25. Cliff Hendroval says

    The best Christmas movie ever is one about the family getting together for the holidays: The Lion In Winter.

    John: A knife! He’s got a knife!

    Eleanor of Aquitaine: Of course he has a knife, he always has a knife, we all have knives! It’s 1183 and we’re barbarians!