(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:
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.