Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey (hereafter Jingle Jangle) is a Netflix Original film, joining their line-up of Christmas titles that are steadily ringing in the 2020 holiday season. However, Jingle Jangle stands above the rest, filling a very specific niche by being a Christmas musical fantasy film. This is a first for Netflix, but hopefully, not the last, especially if they’re this good.
The film is directed by American playwright and filmmaker David E. Talbert. Additionally, Lyn Sisson-Talbert serves as the producer. Additional producers include Kristin Burr, John Legend, Mike Jackson, and David McIlvain. Cinematography was handled by Remi Adefarasin and Choreography was helmed by Ashley Wallen, who also choreographed The Greatest Showman.
Jingle Jangle‘s cast includes Forest Whitaker as Jeronicus Jangle, Madalen Mills as Journey Jangle, Keegan-Michael Key as Gustafson, and Ricky Martin as both the voice and motion capture actor for Don Juan Diego. Additionally, the film’s score was crafted by John Debney, with songs by John Legend and Philip Lawrence. Both creatives provide robust songs that wholeheartedly add to the narrative.
As said above, this movie is quite unique. However, it’s not solely unique thanks to its Christmas meets fantasy meets musical premise. Actually, this is an over two decades long project. However, thanks to Netflix’s purchase of the film in 2017, we’re now able to enjoy a new holiday tale with an emphasis on Blackness in every minute.
Our story centers on Jeronicus Jangle, an inventor, toymaker, and the owner of Jangles and Things. Jangles and Things is perhaps the most famous toy company in the world…at least initially. Viewers enter on the eve of a delivery which will launch the Jangle name to new heights. It’s here that Jeronicus crafts eye-catching toys that are beloved by all, alongside sharing his shop with his family and apprentice, Gustafson.
Almost immediately, Jeronicus received a special package containing a component necessary to complete his newest invention: an automaton named Don Juan Diego. Brought to life with a special elixir, Don Juan is quite the delight. Almost immediately, Don Juan realizes he’s not one of a kind. Actually, he’s going to be one of many. The toy quickly gets to scheming, and ropes Jeronicus’ apprentice into the mix.
That very night, Gustafson, driven by desire and greed, borrows-slash-steals both Jeronicus’ book of inventions and Don Juan Diego, crushing his mentor in the process. Very quickly, things go downhill for him. Depression sinks in, and Jeronicus begins to put work ahead of his wife, until tragedy strikes. By the end of the film’s opening, Jessica -Jeronicus’ daughter- has moved away.
Years and years later, Janngles and Things is a shadow of its former self, and now faces financial ruin. The spark of magic within Jeronicus has gone out. His shop is in shambles and filled with clutter. Yet now, he faces one final task. Pay back his debts in full, or show the bank a brand new invention in order to save his shop. However, that’s not really the entire story.
In fact, Jeronicus’ story is simply the vehicle for the main character: his estranged granddaughter, Journey Jangle.
One Christmas, Journey arrives at Jeronicus’ doorstep. She tells Jeronicus that her mother -Jessica Jangle- will come to get her on Christmas. However, Jeronicus is less than interested in his child charge. In the end, he begrudgingly lets her stay until her mother comes. Thus we have the basis for a heartfelt romp of a Christmas movie that is as heartfelt and magical as its premise.
At its core, Jingle Jangle is a story centered on healing, found -and re-found- family, and the magic of belief. It’s also a story about Black Girl Magic in a figurative and literal sense. Jingle Jangle is also a story that embraces Blackness as a central tenet of this world. It’s as warm as a cup of cocoa, with genuine thrills and a lot of moments that will make you wonder who’s cutting onions in the room. Be sure to bring a tissue or two to your view: you’ll need them!
Jingle Jangle is also dripping with African and Black influence. The clothing, while distinctly Victorian in style, features African prints paired with natural hairstyles that further exalt the all-Black cast. The music, which is clearly inspired by big musicals, has a distinct Black sound, drawing on R&B, jazz, and the iconic full-bodied sounds that make up Black American diasporic music. This extends to the interstitial music as well.
Additionally, the dance sequences have a very “Broadway” feel, with lots of flair and polish. They draw heavily on Black culture with movements that mirror a lot of popular dance steps and styles. At times, it even includes draw on African dances, most notably in a girls versus boys snowball fight. Other sequences draw on stepping, specifically from Kappa Alpha Psi and Omega Psi Phi, two of the Divine Nine fraternities and sororities.
Movie buffs and general viewers who aren’t fans of musicals will still find the film quite engaging, and the music numbers and showstoppers a delight. Forest Whitaker’s warm voice is a pleasant addition to the music, as is Keegan-Michael Key’s upbeat, big band-inspired showstopper. Thankfully, the entire Jingle Jangle soundtrack is available on streaming platforms like Apple Music and Spotify.
Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey is the Black Chistmas story we’ve all been waiting for. The film has a big screen vibe with high production, a bombastic soundtrack, and a slew of actors that give it their all to tell this heartwarming holiday story. It’s hard to see this not being a regular film for both Black diasporic viewers, as well as viewers of all backgrounds. With stylish, Afro-steampunk inspired garb, gorgeous Black hairstyles, and a heathly dollop of fantasy, Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey is sure to satisfy and leave you feeling some jingle in your own jangle.
Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey is now streaming on Netflix.
Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey is the Black Chistmas story we’ve all been waiting for. The film has a big screen vibe with high production, a bombastic soundtrack, and a slew of actors that give it their all to tell this heartwarming holiday story.
Mercedez Clewis is a Queer Blerd who wears many hats. In addition to being a writer, she’s also a freelance transcriptionis and a localization editor and QA. She’s also really into visual novels, iyashikei/healing anime, and anything with magical girls in it.
You can follow her work as a professional Blerd at Backlit Pixels or keep up with her day to day life on Twitter.