A non-spoiler movie review of the Netflix original movie “Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey”
“Whether you think you can or can’t...you’re right”. A simple phrase uttered by Journey Jangle (played by newcomer Madalen Mills) rings true of this sure to be Black holiday classic. Jingle Jangle takes a page from Christmas stories past with a stellar cast and ‘ear-catching’ original music by John Legend and some famous friends.
The story kicks off with narrator Phylicia Rashad telling her grandchildren a Christmas tale about the greatest inventor ever, Jeronicus Jangle (played by Forest Whitaker). How his perfect life as a “revolutionary” toy inventor starts on cloud nine, until his toy shop apprentice Gustafson (played by Keegan Michael Key) steals his toy designs and becomes famous himself. Then as a twist of fate (or a forged note), his granddaughter Journey Jangle shows up to help him find his belief as a great toy maker again. Rashad brings an ethereal presence to the film as narrator and pops up quite frequently throughout. It goes to show, if you have someone as esteemed as Rashad appearing in your film...you use her!
Without spoiling the twists and turns along the way, the story holds up well as it deals with relatable family issues throughout. From Jeronicus Jangle and his daughter Jessica Jangle’s (played by Anika Noni Rose) falling out due to a family tragedy; and their eventual reconciliation. To Journey Jangle’s own adventure to becoming a great inventor herself; with the help of self-proclaimed young inventor and pawn broker assistant Edison (played by Kieron L. Dyer). It’s also notable, Edison has several similarities to Gustafson in his early years as an apprentice which adds a few layers to each character.
The cast of characters is filled out with Ricky Martin as the manipulative Don Juan Diego. A toy doll brought to life by Jeronicus and then stolen by Gustafson for his own personal gain. Mr. Delacroix’s (played by Hugh Bonneville) few appearances as the banker and friend of Jeronicus is brought front and center as he’s forced to foreclose on “Jangle and Things”. Mostly due to lack of payment on the many loans given to the toy shop by his bank. Jeronicus’ only way of saving the shop at this point in the film is by coming up with a “revolutionary” toy (enter Buddy 3000).
The comedic relief of the film comes in the form of Mrs.(or Ms.) Johnston (played by Lisa Davina Phillip) the mail carrier who is head over heels for Jeronicus. The eccentric (and obsessive) mail carrier constantly reads everyone’s mail before delivering it to its recipients. But it’s her musical number “Miles and Miles” (sung by Marisha Wallace) that really gets this new-age Christmas musical off the ground in the first Act. The coupling vocals and performance of Wallace and Phillip are really something to see and brought to life in a way only a Black woman can.
However the show stopping moment of the holiday musical comes as a grown-up Jessica Jangle appears on screen to sing the bigger than life “Make it Work” number. Anika Noni Rose belts her heart out and solidifies her place as a true “Dream Girl” in the number that sends the rising action into the final act. Wow!
The original music by John Legend blends well with the story while also managing to stand on its own. The set design and costumes are reminiscent of “A Christmas Carol” but way more diverse and representative of Black culture. Written and directed by David E. Talbert the film’s message is ever present. Believing in yourself makes anything possible. Only making the phrase “Whether you think you can or can’t...you’re right” that much more true. “Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey” is a family movie to put on your list this holiday season. Providing a well needed platform for Black creatives (new and established) to truly shine.
I give this movie a B+ for pushing the envelope for Black content in all forms (including Christmas). It’s mostly predictable plot snags in places but it doesn’t stop the momentum of this magical adventure once it gets going.