Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey is one of Netflix’s most recent Christmas productions, it's a steampunk-inspired musical of how everything is possible if you believe.
The story starts with a grandmother (Phylicia Rashad) reading a bedtime story, The Inventions of Jeronicus Jangle. Jeronicus (played by Justin Cornwell as a young man and Forest Whitaker as an older man) creates a world of wonder for children and adults alike in his toyshop, Jangles and Things, aided by his wife and daughter.
A package arrives, and in it is the final ingredient for what he deems his greatest creation of all: Don Juan, a mechanical bullfighter (voiced by Ricky Martin). When the toy comes alive, the family rejoices, and Jeronicus says how excited he is to make millions of toys just like him. Don Juan becomes furious about the idea of not being one of a kind. He convinces Gustafson, Jeronicus’s assistant at the shop (Miles Barrow as a young man, Keegan-Michael Key as the older version), to “borrow indefinitely” Jeronicus’s notes and use them to become the greatest inventor of all time, and to take him so he can never be reproduced again.
Fast forward a few decades and Jeronicus’s wife has passed away. Without his notes, his shop ceases to exist, leaving him no choice but to turn it into a pawnshop. Jeronicus’s daughter has now grown up and has a daughter of her own, Journey (Madalen Mills).
Journey goes to spend the few days leading up to Christmas with her now bitter grandfather, who has accumulated a lot of debt. The bank gives him until Christmas to come up with “something revolutionary” or lose his shop. Jeronicus is displeased with his granddaughter’s impromptu visit, but her belief might just be what the greatest inventor of all time needs to recover his magic.
The best way I can describe this film is lighthearted fun. It has beautiful musical numbers which are full of life and colours stemming from both the wonderful wardrobe and the predominantly Black cast.
Despite the fact that the songs themselves are not all that memorable, the cast brings them to life with over-the-top performances, perfect for the holiday season. Key’s villain song to promote a toy proves to be both cheerful and comical as his song ends with the toy attacking a patron.
The cast is overloaded, causing some unmemorable side plots.
Furthermore, the film is not without its problems. For example, all the female roles in the film are there to further Jeronicus’s narrative. His daughter and granddaughter primarily serve as his assistants and his inspiration, despite the fact the film shows that they are great inventors themselves. His wife, when alive, is reduced to no more than a cheerleader for her husband.
Overall, the film was cheesy and fun — and it was pretty to look at. It is important for Black kids to see themselves represented throughout history in a whimsical way that allows them to have hope for the future. However, the film fails to be “something revolutionary.”