The JOE-DOWN Reviews ‘Jingle All the Way’

Welcome to the JOE-DOWN, a back-and-forth movie review blog by two snarky newspapermen named Joe from Minnesota, Joe Froemming and Joe Brown. We will take turns selecting a movie — any movie we want — and review it here. For this installment, Brown picked “Jingle All The Way.”

The info:

The Movie: “Jingle All the Way”

Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sinbad, Phil Hartman

Director: Brian Levant

Plot Summary: (From IMDB) A father vows to get his son a Turbo Man action figure for Christmas. However, every store is sold out of them and he must travel all over town and compete with everybody else in order to find one.

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 15 percent

Our take:

Brown: Merry Christmas from the JOE-DOWN! 

Though to be fair, Froemming celebrates Festivus and at this point, I’m just a conduit for my nieces and nephew to get cheap presents from their broke uncle. 

But enough of that depressing (REDACTED)! Let’s get in the holiday spirit. 

Since we already did “Die Hard” back in March, we can’t go with the best Christmas movie ever. So, let’s pick another action star in a Christmas movie. 

Oh hey, we haven’t done a Schwarzenegger movie in a while. “Jingle All the Way” should work, right?

No. So much no. 

So I remember seeing this as a kid and knowing it was awful then, unlike Froemming’s pick last week, “Aladdin.” 

In fact, I think the only reason anyone around me got this movie at Blockbuster is because the movie takes place in Minneapolis. And, well, Minnesotans LOVE anything that acknowledges them as something more than flyover country. Hence, people watched this turd. 

While I chase for a Super Ball with a number on it to get my Turbo Man doll, give me your first thoughts, Froemming. 

Froemming: Well, I do have an airing of grievances right now, since we are reviewing this on my holiday of Festivus: This movie couldn’t smooth a silk sheet if it had a hot date with a babe — I lost my train of thought.

For years, I thought I had actually seen this movie. I recall a movie with both Sinbad and Bill McNeal himself, Phil Hartman. Turns out, that was a movie called “House Guest” and because this movie made me think of that one, we will be reviewing that down the road.

My first thoughts? Well, Arnold Schwarzenegger in a holiday comedy with the kid who played Anakin Skywalker in “The Phantom Menace” were all red flags telling me — no, screaming at me to not watch this movie.

Brown: An even bigger red flag: Watching this movie, we in Sinbad’s house! And that man is terrifying! Poor Rob Thomas.

Froemming: Sinbad is right in that clip, we certainly are in hell. This movie is basically Frank Costanza’s tale of how he created Festivus, but done in a real (REDACTED) poorly made way way. 

Brown, while I am faking a bomb scare at KQRS, because Tom Barnard is a real piece of (REDACTED), not for a Turbo Man doll, why don’t you kick this off.

Brown: The movie opens with an action sequence that looks one part “Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers” and one part bad “Godzilla” movie. Turns out, it’s an episode of “Turbo Man,” which, honestly, seems like the perfect JOE-DOWN review. Hell, the main bad guy, Dementor, has minions that look like Marty McFly trying to scare his dad by saying he’s Darth Vader. 

In this “Turbo Man” episode, Turbo Man saves the President’s young son. I kept thinking if this were today, Trump would be like “Oh, yeah, thanks…” before going on some mentally ill rant on windmills.

Froemming: Turns out Anakin wants a Turbo Man doll for Christmas, otherwise he is executing Order 66. And we see his father, Howard, is a busy *checks Wikipedia* mattress salesman in Minneapolis who can never find time for his family.

*Double checks synopsis* Well, (REDACTED) me. I thought he had some big wig job, not being slightly above Al Bundy working at a shoe store. 

Anakin has a karate thing going on, and he wants his father to be there. Howard promises the boy and his wife. But he is a crappy husband and father, so he is forgetting all this important stuff all the time. 


Brown: Hey man, those California kings sell like hot cakes! Who has time for a family when you have mattresses to sell despite not having a showroom to let the public know what you have. 

He gets out the door, only to hit a traffic jam. His warehouse must have been by the Lowry Hill tunnel. 

Then we see Arnie… err, Howard … Jesus, Arnold was named Howard in this movie. This just dawned on me now. 

Anyways, Howard does what every asshole Minnesota driver in a truck does in rush hour: fly down the shoulder. Only when he does this, Howard is pulled over by a motorcycle cop.

A motorcycle cop. In December. In snowy Minneapolis/St. Paul. 

Froemming: The proper response to whomever wrote that in the script:

Brown: And yet, my friend, here we are! This movie was clearly written by someone who has come as close to the midwest as Colorado. 

That’s not the only time this evening that Howard breaks the law because when he gets to the school where Anakin is practicing his sucking karate, he parks in a school bus zone. And, he was late. 

Naturally, the son, Jamie (I guess), is mad and doesn’t want to handle his dad’s lame excuses and casual racism when Howard wraps his newly won purple belt around his head and makes Asian kung-fu noises. 

Froemming: Nothing says “son, I respect your interests” like mocking said interests to their face.

Brown: Well, if it’s not obvious in the first 10 minutes of this movie, Arnie is a terrible dad. 

But Howard wins his son’s love back when he vows to get him a Turbo Man action figure. Because apparently if he doesn’t get the same action figure as everyone else, he’ll be a pariah at his school. 

White people problems, amiright?

Froemming: And because his wife is much smarter than he is (and has much better taste in men in real life, Rita Wilson is married to Tom Hanks), she had told him to pick up a Turbo Man action figure weeks before. But the work-a-day-world of selling mattresses and yelling in the phone with that thick, Austrian accent all us Minnesotans have caused him to forget the one thing his child wanted for Christmas.

I know this movie makes Phil Hartman the bad guy, but given a choice between Howard here and Troy McClure, I am leaning for Liz to run off with the star of “Stop the Planet of the Apes, I Want to Get Off!”

Brown: Two things here. 

First: When Howard and his family are up in the morning, they have KQRS on the radio and they’re playing Christmas carols. I’ve never known KQRS to have Christmas music. And considering the time of day, I’d imagine they were listening to Tom Barnard make racist comments that are translucent in how thinly veiled they are. 

Then, and this is a positive about this movie, give credit to Arnie for having Minnesota passive-aggressiveness down when he has any interaction with Ted (Hartman). Ted oozes insincerity. He’s like a Ned Flanders that worships the notches on his bed since getting divorced instead of God. 

Froemming: Good for Ted for getting out there. Not easy after a divorce.

And like way too many people, on Christmas Eve, Howard thinks he can waltz right into any toy store and get the most popular item of the year without any trouble. Howard, you poor dumb son-of-a-bitch. You work in retail, granted I can’t imagine mattresses being a huge item for the holidays, those seem more like Memorial and Labor Day sale season for you, but any idiot in the 1990s with a TV watched in terror the Tickle Me Elmo horror show of 1996.

Yes, I know. I am (REDACTED) old. 

Brown: Hey man, I remember that chaos and I was 10 at the time.

While in line for the toy store, Howard meets a mail man named Myron… played by Sinbad. 

Myron is trying to get a Turbo Man for his son as well but goes on some pre-shopping diatribe about how the toy companies’ greed is driving all this shopping madness. 

That lasts until the doors open and every shopper in this store becomes violent like the monkey from “2001: A Space Odyssey” once he discovers the club.

Hell, at one point, Chris Parnell comes out as one of the toy store employees to laugh at Howard for waiting until the last minute. 

While this is all going on, I’m thinking to myself “Why are you shopping for the season’s hottest toy in Minneapolis?!” Go to exurbia and I’m sure you could find one. God forbid you have to leave the Twin Cities bubble to go somewhere like Rogers or Cambridge to find your kid the Christmas toy he wants.

I guess I’d be on edge as well if my wife were being pursued by a single Phil Hartman that seems like he came when taking an apron off my wife.


Froemming: Well, the toy store was a bad idea, but Howard’s next place is the worst place on Earth on Christmas Eve: The Mall of America. 

Brown: Before we started this review, I was talking with my coworker Patrick and he talked about going to the Mall of America this weekend. I thought to myself, “From Black Friday to Christmas Eve, there is no place I’d avoid more than the Mall of America.” Then I gave my opinion that the MOA is just another place to buy an Orange Julius.

Froemming: And Howard, if he were to find Turbo Man here, would be paying at least 30 percent more at MOA because that place is where souls go to die.

So, he gets there and Myron is also there, as is a bunch of other terrible fathers who forgot to buy their gifts early. This movie really made me happy Amazon exists so I do not have to bother being around all these people. 

The toy store manager is putting on a lottery for the last doll: If your color ball has the right number, you have the privilege to give that store your money in exchange for this toy. Consumerism in the 90s was a wild time. I remember Ticketmaster locations doing this for concerts before the internet made this, too, a relic of a distant time. 

Brown: What monster decided it was a good idea to write numbers on Super Balls, which are extremely bouncy and small? That is some Joker-level (REDACTED) that is ensuring mass chaos. Which is exactly what happens. 

Froemming: As someone who worked retail in a mall for many years, this is the sweetest revenge upon the idiot masses I can think of. Sorry, I had too many people tell me “(REDACTED) you, you ruined my Christmas” because they decided to shop on Christmas Eve and, guess what, the popular stuff sold out long ago.

This game…these people deserve this wicked, cruel game.

Brown: Yeah, the balls all get loose, the toy store is on its way to destruction and Howard is chasing after his ball, which lands in a child’s stroller. So he stalks a child into a playground and I feel any joke made from here is in poor taste. 

My question: When chaos overtakes the toy store, why not just go in the toy store amid all the calamity and just take a Turbo Man? Why go through the proper rigamarole at that point?

Froemming: Because…

Brown: Also, at some point while he’s chasing the ball as well, Sinbad made a Rodney King reference and that was just uncomfortable.

Though not as uncomfortable as a seemingly drunk Jim Belushi in a Santa costume looking to prey upon Howard’s desperation. 

Froemming: He and his elf, who also played a Santa elf on “Seinfeld” so I am thinking he was typecast at this point in his career. 

And yes, apparently there is a seedy black market in Minneapolis that sells broken toys and is run by men dressed like Santa at all times. 

Brown: One of the Santas is also WWE’s Big Show. I’ll always appreciate wrestling cameos in our movies.

Froemming: This, this was when the movie really started going off the rails for me. And not in a fun way. In a “I want to turn this off now” sort of way. And then the place is busted and Howard walks away scott free because he poses as a cop with a toy badge. 

I know not all cops know one another, but I think word would get around about the 6′ 2″ muscle machine with a thick, Austrian accent. 

Brown: Is that where Howard treads into being a felon? He gets busted for driving on the shoulder, parks illegally in a school bus zone, knocks over a police motorcycle (which again, why in December in Minnesota?!) AND impersonates a police officer. While I’m at it, I’ll jump ahead and mention trespassing at KQRS, being an accessory to terrorism at KQRS, animal cruelty when he feeds a reindeer Grain Belt. (Froemming: He also punches this reindeer in the face) and public endangerment by being an ill-equipped stunt man in the Turbo Man fight at the end. And I feel like I’m forgetting a list of other crimes. 

They may put up with such buffoonery in Wisconsin, Howard. But we do not put up with that here in Minnesota! Go move across the river and never come back!

Froemming: Are you saying we don’t sanction such buffoonery?

So Howard somehow escapes this weird Santa scene he stumbled upon and then, adding to his troubles, his car breaks down. I don’t know, that might be karma or the cosmos telling you to just end this.


Brown: So Howard’s car breaks down on the Hennepin Avenue bridge in Minneapolis. By himself, we see him wheel it over to Mickey’s Dining Car in St. Paul. Dude dragged his (REDACTED) car 10 miles and it’s still not dark out?! I know Arnie’s a Terminator but are you (REDACTED) kidding me?!

And somehow Myron is at Mickey’s as well. I feel like a mail man should not have routes in Minneapolis and St. Paul. 

Froemming: Maybe he took the day off. Maybe it rained or snowed?

Brown: This is where I should remind our readers that this is the second Brian Levant movie/dumpster fire we’re reviewed. The first: “The Flintstones.”

Froemming: So these two decide to booze it up at the diner, where I am sure the old man serving them is just happy to see. Howard calls from the payphone to the house and Anakin answers, and things get heated between a pretty young child and a fully grown adult. Not only has Howard not gotten the gift, he is missing out on spending the day with his son. What’s next, Howard, you going to go out for a pack of smokes and not see the child until Anakin is in his 30s?

Then KQRS has a contest: Name all of Santa’s reindeer and win a Turbo Man action figure! I’d like to think the radio station that champions a mouth-breather like Tom Barnard would think their audience is so dim that this is a tough question. And we get a brief fight at the diner, where they destroy the phone booth. So, add this to the list of crimes committed in pursuit of a dumb doll.

Then the old man at the diner tells them the radio station is just a few blocks away. It is actually an eight mile hike. And it is in Minneapolis, not St. Paul. IT IS NOWHERE NEAR THE DINER!

Brown: They got two blocks to get to KQRS. You mean to tell me that not one listener to one of the most popular radio stations in the Twin Cities can’t call in and name Santa’s reindeer in that time? Yeah, OK, movie. 

So Howard breaks into the studio (literally; he shatters the glass door) and gives his answer. The DJ called the cops before Howard starts blurting out names and before you know it, St. Paul’s finest are outside to arrest this Austrian hulk. 

To make matters worse, it’s not like Howard would have gotten his Turbo Man. Turns out, the radio station was giving out a certificate for a free Turbo Man when they’re in stock. Howard, why not cut your losses and take the certificate and calmly explain to your son that he’ll get one when they’re in stock? Get him a cool present in the meantime and get him the Turbo Man later since, you know, it’ll be free. 

Or, go Myron’s route and threaten the police Ted Kaczynski-style? Both are valid, I guess.

Froemming: So these two end up committing terroristic threats for an action figure. Pre-9/11 America was a wild time. The police show up, and we get a very very stupid sort of stand-off. Myron and Howard manage to escape and, well, one of the packages Myron had really is a bomb and it goes off at the studio. Except it is more like a Wile. E. Coyote scenario, with the cop standing there with soot all over him, not all blown to smithereens like a real bomb would have. So, add assault on an officer to the laundry list of crimes here. 

Brown: Assault? Try attempted murder!

Froemming: Howard, having a pretty bad day and is upset Ted is all trying to woo his wife, decides that maybe, you know, what the hell? He’ll just steal the doll Ted got for his son, who is from a broken home and all.

Howard is a real evil bastard. 

Brown: What are you talking about, Froemming? Stealing peoples’ presents is a South Philly tradition!

But thanks to the efforts of a blood-thirsty reindeer and a nativity scene catching on fire, Howard’s South Philly tradition falls apart as he’s caught red-handed by Ted and his own wife. 

For attempted robbery, Howard gets off pretty light as his family goes to the famous Minneapolis Christmas Eve parade that doesn’t exist. Did you know that Turbo Man is going to be there, Froemming?!

When Ted and Liz go to park the car, Ted gets all gross and tries to kiss/grope Liz and gets a thermos of eggnog to the temple for his troubles. The most realistic part of the movie takes place around this time: the inability to find parking in Minneapolis.

Froemming: Howard, avoiding the law and the very real consequences that would put him away for a long time, ends up in some garage? I dunno, but the people there start dressing him up as Turbo Man as Booger from “Revenge of the Nerds” complains about how late he is, because the parade is already going on. 

Brown: Hey man, if the parade goes well, the Lamdas could take over the Greek council!


Also, the guy who wore the suit before him ended up brain dead? At least he avoided this movie then, amiright? 

So dressed like a live-action Radioactive Man from “The Simpsons,” Howard is in the parade waving like a moron as the TV station gives us color commentary. This movie truly was a living hell to sit through. 

But hey, because of dumb luck or the script, Howard gets to hand out a limited edition Tubo Man doll. And because nepotism runs wild with Howard like the Trump family, he picks his son as the one who will get the toy. Not some homeless kid or some child who could use a cheering up. He gives this toy to his bratty child who will run off to Tatooine and make us hate “Star Wars” for about 12 years.

Only for an old nemesis to rise from the ashes and throw a wrench into this plan. 

Brown: Yep. Somehow Myron catches wind of Howard’s happenstance plan and dresses up as Turbo Man’s arch nemesis: The Scoutmaster Dementor. Myron is here to get the Turbo Man doll for his kid only for Anakin to put his karate lessons to use by… kicking him in the balls. 

Froemming: As Ron Swanson once said, “There’s no shame in hitting a criminal in the bean bag.”

Brown: Dude, you don’t need karate lessons for that. Take a women’s self-defense course like Bobby Hill did.

This starts a chase between Myron and Anakin while Howard fends off the paid actors who are fighting as henchmen. Through this battle, Howard learns how to use Turbo Man’s jetpack to hilariously terrible effect. Seriously, we have “Escape From L.A.” levels of bad CGI through this sequence.

Froemming: I really wish this music played as Myron was chasing Anakin up the tall building. It would have been much better.

Yeah, so Myron, a fully grown adult gone postal from years of working as a mail carrier, chases Anakin through a crowd and up a large building, menacing a child the whole time. And Howard becomes George Michael Bluth with a rocket pack and is flying all around.

Brown: So Howard eventually sends Myron plummeting thanks to a boomerang and then saves his son via jetpack that Howard himself nearly killed himself with. Howard then reveals to his family that he was Turbo Man, much to the chagrin of Ted and his kid.

Froemming: Does Howard’s family suffer from Face Blindness? It was pretty obvious it was him.

Brown: Or is his family deaf? Supposedly the costume had a voice distortion thingamabob (technical term) but you cannot disguise that thick-as-hell Austrian accent. I’m willing to have some suspension of disbelief in movies like that, but that’s downright stupidity. 

So Howard says he’ll be a better father and husband… until there’s more mattresses to sell. 

Meanwhile, Myron is going to jail despite not having as much of a rap sheet as Howard up to this point. Not a good look for the cops to arrest the less dangerous black man but here we are. 

Feeling bad for Myron’s son, Jamie gives the special-edition Turbo Man to Myron because he has the real Turbo Man at home. 

Apparently there is a post-credit scene but this movie is drek so I wasn’t about to watch it.

Let’s exit Sinbad’s House and go to recommendations.

Would You Recommend?

Brown: No. I need to watch “Commando” or another violent Schwarzenegger movie to get this movie out of my system. 

Froemming: Nope. This was not even a dumb-fun movie. This was just painful to sit through.

Here is what’s coming up for the next Joe-Down:

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