Jingle All the Way is a personal childhood favorite. I was 7 at the time of its releasing in 1996, putting me right in the key demographic - even if I barely knew who Arnold Schwarzenegger was. My admiration stems almost entirely from nostalgia, but even as an adult it delivers mindless family entertainment.
My initial interest in the announcement of a sequel was met only by my disappointment upon learning that Larry the Cable Guy would star. I'm admittedly unfamiliar with his oeuvre outside of Cars, but I've been peripherally exposed to his hick persona enough to cringe at the thought of him. The fact that WWE Studios was behind the effort didn't do anything to quell my reservations. The spotty-at-best company has released some solid pictures (Oculus, No One Lives), but they don't have a good track record with sequels (Leprechaun: Origins, See No Evil 2).
In the director's chair is Alex Zamm, a man who has made a career out of straight-to-video sequels to family movies, including Inspector Gadget 2, Beverly Hills Chihuahua 2 and Tooth Fairy 2 (also starring Larry). The lone spot of potential comes from screenwriter Stephen Mazur, who previously penned '90s favorites Liar Liar and The Little Rascals - but he alone could not save this sinking ship.
Jingle All the Way 2 stars Larry as - get this - a redneck ignoramus named Larry. He's a divorced father of a young girl, Noel (Kennedi Clements, star of the upcoming Poltergeist reboot). His ex-wife (Kirsten Robek) recently remarried a rich guy, Victor (Brian Stepanek, The Island). The first act consists of a series of "comedic" vignettes in which Larry haplessly competes with Victor for Noel's affection.
After what feels like hours of predicable set pieces, Larry gets wind that his little girl wants nothing more than Harrison the Talking Bear - this year's hot new toy - for Christmas. When Victor learns of Larry's plan to grant his daughter's wish, he hires his company's head of security (Eric Breker) to buy every Harrison in town. With no time for eBay before Christmas, Larry finds himself in a variety of ridiculous situations in his desperate attempts to make his daughter happy.
Even the best of actors couldn't save this mess, but Larry is almost impressively unfunny and expectedly grating in the lead role. Clements, on the other hand, is adorable and a decent enough kid actor; not half as annoying as Jake Lloyd in the original. WWE wrestler Santino Marella shows up sporadically (sans accent!) as Larry's sidekick. Unfortunately, his throwaway part doesn't afford him any opportunities to showcase his comedic chops.
If you have a young child, they may get a kick out of Jingle All the Way 2's clumsy attempts at comedy. Those hoping for a dose of nostalgia, however, are better off rewatching the first. Failing to capture the charm of Jingle All the Way, the one-note sequel delivers little more than the bare minimum "heartwarming" message in a laughless, unimaginative rehash.
Honestly, they should have just made a sequel about Sinbad's character from the original. He has nothing better to do these days.
- Alex DiVincenzo