REVIEW: ‘Jingle Jangle – A Christmas Journey’ begins with a grandmother (Phylicia Rashad) reading to her grandchildren an intriguing storybook, The Invention of Jeronicus Jangle. And the rest of the story unfolds from here.
Jeronicus Jangle (Justin Cornwell as a young man) watches his big dreams shatter when his trusted apprentice Gustafson (Miles Barrow as a young man) deceives him under the influence of Jangle’s latest and most ambitious invention, Don Juan Diego (voiced by Ricky Martin), a mechanical bullfighter. Unable to reconcile with betrayal and loss, Jeronicus stops creating new toys and his famous toy store, Jangles and Things, once known for its charming collection of toys, is surrounded by an air of sadness. Soon he is left with almost nothing. Things get worse, when Jeronicus loses his wife, Joanne (Sharon Rose) and cannot cope with his grief, he sends his daughter, Jessica (Diaana Babnicova when young, Anika Noni Rose when older).
Decades later, after hearing many fascinating stories from her grandfather’s former magical toy store, Jessica’s young daughter Journey (Madalen Mills) decides to visit Jeronicus (Forest Whitaker) just before Christmas. Once there, he realizes that not only is his grandfather’s store now just a pawn shop, but he also plans to close his business soon. Grandpa Jeronicus is grumpy and sad and at first very cautious about letting Journey live with him. In fact, he forces her to sign a bond not to touch or take anything from the store, when he finally lets her in. Unfazed by his grandfather’s attitude, Journey teams up with Edison (Kieron L Dyer), a young assistant, and begins visiting his abandoned workshop upstairs. They find Buddy, a robot that Jeronicus had created and he left halfway. Using her own abilities, Journey manages to make it work, but when her grandfather discovers that she has overdone his welcome, he becomes angry and refuses to believe that Buddy really works. Meanwhile, Gustafon (Keegan Michael Key as older), spies on Jangles and Things and finds out about Buddy and plans to steal this invention as well. Can Journey stop Gustafon and make Jeronicus believe again?
With a Dickensian steampunk setting, Jingle Jangle unfolds like a magical fantasy musical with plenty of charm and dazzling moments. The soundtrack (John Debney) and the choreographed dance sequences are spectacular. Though a bit overloaded, with a myriad of characters, ‘Jingle Jangle’ manages to burst out of the holiday spirit and festive cheer. There are some truly magical, enchanting and whimsical moments that take over what with flying gadgets, fascinating tools, and animation. Plus, the sets and costumes are colorful and bright (production designer: Gavin Bocquet, costumes: Michael Wilkinson), so it’s a pleasure to see. In a cast of mostly black stars, Forest Whitaker leads with his compelling performance (watch out for his jig in the snow). Madalen Mills stands out as the highly intelligent Journey, who doesn’t give up on her grandfather. Keegan Michael Key, Anika Noni Rose, Kieron L Dyer, Ricky Martin are also added with their notable acts.
Packed with fabulous performances, spectacular shows, outrageous music and dance, captivating visuals (cinematography – Remi Adefarasin), ‘Jingle Jangle’ makes for a perfect healthy Christmas watch. It is an energy of joy and well-being that is almost contagious.