2020 Holiday Movie Review: Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey and Happiest Season

 

I always look forward to watching new holiday movies each Christmas season, and this year did not disappoint. I recently watched Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey, released on Netflix in November and Happiest Season, released on Hulu in November. These movies, while extremely different, both left me feeling the holiday cheer after watching. I’m here to review these new Christmas releases and tell you what I loved and didn’t love about them. Warning, this article contains some spoilers! 

 

Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey, directed by David E. Talbert, is the story of Jeronicus, a legendary inventor played by Forest Whitaker. Just in time for Christmas, Jeronicus finalizes his most impressive invention yet, a matador doll named Don Juan Diego that comes to life, whose voice is played by Ricky Martin. Jeronicus’s trusted apprentice Gustafson, played by Keegan-Michael Key, steals both the doll and his book of inventions and runs off, soon to become a rich and famous inventor using Jeronicus’s plans. Jeronicus’s business and family crumble, and soon he is left alone and with little hope in life. One day, his granddaughter Journey, played by Madalen Mills, shows up on his doorstep and (SPOILER ALERT!) helps him reclaim his inventions, belief in the impossible, and Christmas spirit. 

 

Jingle Jangle is notable for its predominantly black cast, incredible costumes, dazzling set, and impressive CGI. The music in the film is also noteworthy; all of the songs are originals and performed spectacularly by very talented voices. Some of my favorite scenes in the movie were musical numbers in which the actors’ voices simply blew me away. The movie also contains a light humor that oftentimes brought a smile to my face. I also enjoyed that the film broke out of the mold of many overdone Christmas movie plots and introduced a story that has never been told before. 

 

While the move was received well by most critics, some complained that it was a little too fantastical and dramatic. I had the same initial reaction after watching the opening scene, which was a slightly over-the-top musical number that seemed like it would be the show-stopping closing number in a Broadway musical. However, I now believe that the function of that opening scene was to capture the audience’s attention and dazzle from the beginning, as many Broadway plays also attempt to do. The rest of the musical numbers I thought were more muted and natural.  All in all, I would recommend this movie to anyone who is a fan of heart-warming Christmas family classics and musicals. 

 

Happiest Season, directed by Clea Duvall, is a holiday romantic comedy starring Kristen Stewart, Dan Levy, Aubrey Plaza, and several other big names. In the movie, Harper (Mackenzie Davis) invites Abby (Kristen Stewart), her girlfriend, to her family’s home for Christmas in a moment of romantic spontaneity. On the drive there, Harper admits that she has not yet come out to her parents and has told them Abby is just her roommate with nowhere to go for the holidays. Upon arrival, Abby is greeted as Harper’s “orphan friend.” A series of unfortunate and humorous events unfold at Harper’s house, including Abby being pinned for shoplifting, awkward (and hurtful) encounters with Harper’s ex-boyfriend, and a surprising friendship with Abby’s first girlfriend, whom she also hid from her parents. As Harper begins to push Abby away, Abby must confront whether Harper is truly the one for her, and Harper is forced to grapple with hiding her true self from her family. The film brings up the themes of love, staying true to yourself, friendship, and also some holiday fun. Watch to see if Abby and Harper’s romance survives Christmas at Harper's house! 

 

Like Jingle Jangle, Happiest Season has an incredible cast and benefits greatly from its talented actors. While the plot is relatively predictable, I was glad to see a movie featuring a gay couple as its main characters to be making headlines this holiday season. I also enjoyed the honesty of the film. Although it does have a (SPOILER ALERT!) mostly happy ending, there are definitely some raw, tear-jerking moments throughout that make it much deeper than your average holiday romcom. Beyond romance, Happiest Season makes viewers think about family dynamics, loss, friendships, self image, and even some politics. I appreciated that the film didn’t just scratch the surface, but dove deeper into some of the difficulties surrounding the holiday season for many. Not to say that this is an incredibly profound film, but it does bring up some thought provoking themes. 

 

Some critics have claimed that the film places some of its characters, particularly the gay characters, in sterotypical roles, a point which I see some merit to. Other critics have complained about the underdevelopment of Harper’s character, which I wholeheartedly agree with. Harper’s motives are somewhat confusing, her supposedly deep love for Abby is not well established or convincing, and her actions and words are extremely contradictory at times. At one point, her behavior towards Abby became irredeemable in my mind, and hence their (SPOILER ALERT!) reunion at the end felt almost implausible. On another note, Dan Levy’s character reminded me a lot of his role as David in Schitt’s Creek, which made me very happy. I would recommend this move to anyone looking for a twist on the traditional holiday romantic comedy. 

 

 Happy Holidays and happy movie watching! Here’s to less time on the couch in 2021!