Brian Levant’s 1996 Jingle All the Way has become a mainstay in many households when it comes to the Christmas movie setlist. On the surface, it’s a fun family comedy with slapstick humour, a drunk reindeer and Schwarzenegger zooming around the Twin Cities in a full live-action cartoon come the final act. For kids, it’s all about a cool toy and the hijinks that ensue as a Dad tries to get the hottest toy of the Christmas season for his son. For the parents and adults watching though, it is a satire that speaks to the darker truths of the Christmas season. Family friendly fluff this ain’t. Well, at least for the next few hundred words anyway.
From its very beginnings, Jingle All The Way was designed to satirise the chaos and dehumanising nature of the mad consumerist impulses that fuel the Yuletide capitalist machine. The story of a father’s pursuit of a toy on Christmas Eve is one that stems from genuine experience. Screenwriter Randy Kornfield was struck with inspiration for the idea after both seeing news footage of mad holiday shoppers storming a toy store, and the tale of his in-laws trying to find a Power Rangers action figure for his son one Christmas in the early 90’s..
Producer Chris Columbus drew on his own experiences trying to find a Buzz Lightyear action figure as well in his uncredited rewrite, an experience I know my own parents went through too when trying to get me a Woody doll for my birthday in the late 90’s. They too were met with dead ends, empty promises, and empty shelves (although I don’t think they went as far as trying to steal it from the neighbours house, and setting it on fire in the process). Columbus even said at the time of release in an interview with Daily News of Los Angeles that he has always been “attracted to the dark side of the happiest holiday of the year”, and Jingle All the Way makes no qualms at trying to hide this fact.