(Netflix) Ordinarily I’d refrain from suggesting a newly released, heavily promoted Netflix holiday film here, but I haven’t seen much discussion about JINGLE JANGLE over the last several weeks, so hopefully the following will prod you into checking it out:

I went into JINGLE JANGLE not knowing much about it except for the cast and that several critics I respect gave it high marks. Consequently, I assumed it was a slightly conventional, well-made modern Christmas film. Instead, it’s a fantastical musical that feels like an extremely successful adaptation of a pre-existing, beloved Broadway blockbuster.

To summarize: it’s the story of Jeronicus Jangle (young Jeronicus played by Justin Cornwell, old Jeronicus played by Forest Whitaker), the greatest inventor of all time and his downfall, how he lost his prior inventions — stolen from him by one of his -own inventions- and his apprentice Gustafson (young Gustafson played by Miles Barrow, old by Kegan-Michael Key) — and the loss of his family and his talent.

The years go on and Jeronicus is now a pawnbroker, instead of the head of a magical shop of wonder, but his young granddaughter Journey (who prefers to measure and build) is so enamored by the stories her mother relays that Journey schemes a way to visit him. Journey arrives two days before Christmas, two days before the bank is set to claim his store unless Jeronicus shows the bank representative (Hugh Bonneville, apparently just happy to be included) an invention that is wonderful, something revolutionary.

Yes, all of that’s relatively conventional, as are the remaining beats to the story. However, they’re all done so effortlessly cleverly that it feels like new. The storybook framing devices are visual marvels and are worked in seamlessly. Jeronicus’ shop is a marvel of production design, with exquisite attention to detail. Even the sound design’s perfect, as one of the inventions has a ‘voice’ that seems modeled after Edison’s dolls.

Then there are the musical numbers — songs by John Legend and Philip Lawrence, choreographed by THE GREATEST SHOWMAN’s Ashley Wallen — which are perhaps best shown rather than explained:

This Day:

Magic Man G:

Director/writer David E. Talbert initially penned this as a stage play, and it shows, but in the best way. It feels like he endlessly workshopped JINGLE JANGLE and came up with something that perfectly translates to the silver screen. I would definitely not be surprised to see it migrate back to the stage.


MILLENNIUM S02E10: Midnight of the Century (1997)

(DVD) While I have a favorite Thanksgiving film (PIECES OF APRIL), and a favorite New Year’s Eve film (AFTER THE THIN MAN), I don’t have a favorite Christmas film. However, I do have a favorite Christmas TV episode, and MILLENNIUM’s -Midnight of the Century- is it.

MILLENNIUM is about Frank Black (Lance Henriksen), an offender profiler who has astounding intuition. Also, he can see angels and demons. In the second season of the show, he’s joined by Lara Means (Kristen Cloke) who also suffers from being bestowed the same ‘gift’. These are people who feel too much, feel too hard, who have insight and empathy they don’t want, but feel they have to utilize their gifts to help others.

MILLENNIUM’s holiday episodes, including the Halloween episode -The Curse of Frank Black- (also my favorite Halloween episode of all time) hit pause on the machinations of the Millennium Group that Frank Black is involved with, and instead focuses on Frank Black reflecting on his past, present, and future. -Midnight of the Century- features him mulling over the ramifications of passing along his ‘gift’ to his daughter, reminiscing about how his mother struggled with the same ‘gift’, and confronting his father (Kolchak himself, Darren McGavin — although I suspect most know him as the father in A CHRISTMAS STORY) about his mother holing herself up in their spare bedroom until she died.

It also includes a terrifically poignant story that involves a barely disguised Red Rose Tea figurine (https://redrosetea.com/pages/figurines ), the likes of which I grew up with.

It’s not all devastatingly sad, though: Frank Black takes a bit of time to detail why the killer in SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT is a spree killer, not a serial killer.

A hallmark of second season MILLENNIUM episodes are their exceptional music programming, and this episode doesn’t disappoint as it utilizes Tchaikovsky’s Arabian Dance (from his Nutcracker Suite – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fPuf9krTR4w) as a haunting refrain.

It’s a quiet, contemplative episode that’s not only a substantial character study, but also perfectly captures the many facets of Christmas. While it is certainly not the most uplifting Christmas episode of a TV show, it is one of the most remarkable.