It’s been a rough couple of weeks in the world, and with Thanksgiving around the corner, it’s time to start planning for those warm hearted movie nights with your family, whether it’s the ones you live with or a virtual watch party with those in the extended branches. You’ll need something lighthearted, with a nice message that everyone can enjoy. Well, the Netflix original musical “Jingle Jangle” is just the ticket.
Written and directed by David E. Talbert, the film centers around eccentric and brilliant toy and gismo maker, Jeronicus Jangle (Justin Cornwell) in a Victorian-styled world. His inventions are the talk of the town, and he slowly grows his business until one day, the final ingredient to his greatest idea arrives. He’s able to give a wooden matador toy a consciousness, Don Juan Diego (voiced by Ricky Martin).
Before Jeronicus is able to mass-produce the toy and reach the pinnacle of his career, Don Juan Diego convinces Jeronicus’ apprentice, Gustafson (Miles Barrow) to steal him and the other toy schematics and become a toymaker in his own right.
Crushed, unable to fully return to his inventions and eventually the death of his wife Joanne (Sharon Rose), leads him to give up his trinkets and toys and leads his daughter Jessica (Diaana Babnicova ) to leave home.
Thirty years later, Jeronicus (now played by Forest Whitaker) is a pawnbroker with bills piling up. His precocious granddaughter Journey (Madalen Mills) is then sent by her mother (now played by vocal powerhouse Anika Noni Rose) to stay with him until Christmas. She is also an inventor in her own right but her only wish is for her grandfather to pick up his inventing habit again and to save his store. A task she jumps at the chance to help with.
Meanwhile, Gustafson (now played by Keegan-Michael Key) has risen to the heights of toy making alongside his anthropomorphized sidekick Don Juan using the stolen plans, but now he’s gone through all of Jeronicus’ ideas and has to come up with something on his own.
While it’s not the most profound Christmas movie ever told it is still full of joy and wonderment that all good ones must have. Lessons are learned, crotchety people are changed by the optimism and belief of others — it checks all the boxes.
It also has an incredible costume and set design that fully immerses the audience in this charming world that fit perfectly alongside the music from John Debney (who also scored “The Greatest Showman”) featuring songs by Philip Lawrence, Davy Nathan, Michael Diskint and John Legend, who’s lush and soulful sounds can raise the spirits of anyone watching. Ashley Wallen’s choreography also stands out with large chorus dance numbers reminiscent of Broadway shows.
However, it can get a bit too cutesy with some of the plot, but hey, it’s a kids’ movie.
Between all of the technical and musical aspects, the film also shines because of its cast. Forest Whitaker is obviously good and gets the chance to showcase his smooth vocals in three numbers. Keegan Michael-Key is always delightful as the slightly villainous but not too malevolent rival toymaker.
And a special shoutout to the scene-stealing Lisa Davina Phillip who plays the lovesick postmistress Ms. Johnston who is infatuated with Jeronicus. She is hilariously boisterous then can turn around and warmly subdued on a dime. Cast her in everything, Hollywood.
But newcomer Madalen Mills anchors it in the realm of wonder that the film is centered around. Her solid performance, strong vocals and bright-eyed attitude sell what the film is putting out there in this perfect addition to your holiday movie rotation.