Years ago, my friend decided as a gag to give me a DVD of Jingle All the Way, the 1996 movie starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sinbad, as a Christmas gift. Begrudgingly, that meant I had to watch it and it was worse than I expected. It’s a movie where everyone is insufferable and unlikeable, especially Arnold’s son, played by Jake “Don’t Call Me Anakin” Lloyd. The only thing the movie had going for it was Phil Hartman and that scene with all the criminals dressed as Santa (including the Big Show). It also gave us this.
When I found out that they were making a sequel 18 years after the fact, starring Larry the Cable guy and C-list wrestler Santino Marella, while directed by the guy who made Carrot Top’s Chairman of the Board, I knew it would be a Molotov cocktail of crap. I had to see it. The movie isn’t a sequel in the traditional sense. None of the characters from the movie are referenced in any way. It’s more thematic. If anything, I could at least scrutinize it to see how it compares to the first one. I mean, it isn’t like it’s ruining a fantastic franchise or anything.
Larry plays Larry, fittingly enough, a divorced part-time truck driver and father of Noel (Kennedi Clements). His ex-wife Trish (Kristen Robek) just came back from her honeymoon with her new husband Victor (Brian Stepanek) and it’s decided that for Noel’s Christmas break, she’ll ping-pong from one to the other by the day in terms of custody. Larry and Victor, who is incredibly rich, butt heads due to their differing statuses. At the very least, we’re starting all right because a decent enough dynamic is introduced. Larry thinks he can’t compete with Victor’s money while Victor thinks he can’t compete because he’s only the stepfather. Both end up compensating and it escalates into the plot.
While the original movie was about two dads warring over a Turbo Man action figure, this one’s about the two dads going to war over Harrison Bear (voiced by the movie’s director Alex Zamm). Larry sneaks a peak at Noel’s letter to Santa and is on the warpath to get her that danged doll with the help of his best buddy Claude (Santino) and words of encouragement from local diner waitress Maggie (Rachel Hayward). All the while, Victor tries to make it difficult.
It is refreshing that the story feels like enough of a follow-up to the original without outright copying it. In the original, Turbo Man was impossible to get because the demand was far higher than the supply to a degree that we no longer see as much these days. In this version, Harrison Bear is something more readily available because the shops and manufacturers aren’t stupid and like making money. It’s just that the way it stays out of Larry’s hands is actually plot-driven rather than an easy plot device, which makes for something far more interesting.
To give credit where credit is due, the first act is okay and the third act is actually pretty good. Like, it shockingly brings it all together in a way that I was suddenly interested in the characters and what was going on. It’s just that the second act goes on forever and ever. It becomes a series of skits about Larry trying to find a Harrison Bear through various schemes and then something happens to foil him. It’s a bunch of filler. The movie is being held up by the Larry/Victor rivalry and Victor suddenly stops appearing for huge chunks. It’s a shame this whole section of the movie feels so flat, since comedy aside, the writing is shockingly sort of logical in getting from point A to point B. You know, for a family film.
I’m not a fan of Larry the Cable Guy, but I don’t really have a huge hate-on for him either. While he failed to make me laugh, at least he was capable enough to carry the movie with his goofball everyman style. He never seemed out of place and did the best with what he was given. I don’t even blame him for the humor, since a lot of it appeared to be lowest-common-denominator stuff that I’d probably giggle at if it was used as more than a tacked-on cheap laugh. “Here, have a random joke about Larry saying he pooped himself! That’s funny, right?”
Santino isn’t in the movie all that much and even when he is there, his character Claude doesn’t do anything of note. At all. He’s just there for Larry to have conversations with and keep him company. It’s weird because the movie sets up a villain character named Welling (Eric Breker) who gets the bare minimum of comeuppance when Claude punching him out or humiliating him in some way would have been a perfect use for him.
If you watch WWE and see the commercials for Jingle All the Way 2, you might notice that while Santino is shown, he never actually speaks. That’s because he’s completely without his accent, which is weird as hell to hear. Usually in these WWE movies, you can always note that the wrestlers are able to carry themselves as actors. Even The Miz was the best part of The Christmas Bounty. Sadly, I can’t say the same here. Santino is just not a good actor and it really takes you out of every scene he’s in. It’s like his fake Italian accent is the source to all of his powers.
The rest are fine. Kennedi Clements plays the kid role far better than Jake Lloyd in the original, even if there are scenes where she unnaturally gets really excited out of nowhere. Brian Stepanek as Victor really grew on me towards the end and even delivered a couple lines that got some chuckles out of me. Since he’s the only character to have any real kind of growth (Larry just chases his own tail for an hour and a half), they really should have given him more to do during the middle half.
In the end, Jingle All the Way 2 is about as bad as you’d expect it to be. The humor is beyond weak and any redeeming parts of the story (such as the last fifteen minutes) are offset by the never-ending series of incidents where Larry tries to find that doll. But you know what? If given the choice between watching this again and watching the Schwarzenegger version? Yeah, I think I’d rather get ‘er done.