Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey
Forest Whitaker and Keegan-Michael Key lead this joyful Christmas musical.
It may only be mid-November, but Netflix are already kicking off the festive fun with the launch of Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey.
The musical begins with a young Jeronicus Jangle (Justin Cornwell), the most talented and prosperous inventor of all, preparing to launch a matador toy - Don Juan Diego (voiced by Ricky Martin) - that comes alive.
However, his young apprentice Gustafson (Miles Barrow), overcome by jealousy and greed, steals the toy and his boss' book of inventions.
Cut to many years later, Gustafson (now Keegan-Michael Key) has become the most successful and famous inventor, and Jeronicus (now Forest Whitaker) has become a grumpy and lonely man who works as a pawnbroker out of his now-decaying shop and is estranged from his daughter Jessica (Anika Noni Rose).
But his fortunes are about to change - his estranged granddaughter Journey (Madalen Mills), who shares his gift for inventing, arrives for an unannounced visit and helps him see the wonder and magic in inventing again.
Jingle Jangle has quite a simple, flimsy plot so you should look elsewhere if you're after depth, nuance, and a more complicated, layered story.
However, you can forgive the film for all this because it's so entertaining to watch. Children will love the musical numbers and the choreography, Mills as the fearless Journey, and most especially, the Buddy 3000, a robot that can talk and fly (and looks a lot like WALL-E).
Writer/director David E. Talbert has created an ambitious Christmas movie and a visual spectacle that features stunning production design, Victorian-era snow-covered sets, period costumes, gorgeous stop-motion animation, and CGI inventions.
Not all of the songs are memorable but they are fun to watch in the moment, with standouts including Mills' big solo piece, Square Root of Possible, and Gustafson's fun number, Magic Man G.
Despite being surrounded by an A-list cast, newcomer Mills easily steals the show as Journey, who is super smart, wants to become an inventor like her grandfather, and helps him get his inventing mojo back.
She is likeable, proud of her intelligence, and has a very impressive singing voice for such a young person.
Key is good fun as the cartoonish comedy villain, while Whitaker is perfectly cast as Jeronicus, although his transformation from grumpy to happy was a bit too quick and simple.
Rose has a gorgeous singing voice, Phylicia Rashad serves as the mysterious narrator, and Hugh Bonneville pops up as the banker Delacroix.
A lot of festive films are fronted by white actors so Talbert has remedied that by hiring a cast mostly comprised of people of colour.
Jingle Jangle isn't perfect but Talbert still manages to deliver a Christmassy treat that is full of joy, wonder, and that festive feeling. A must-watch for the children this holiday season!
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