For the many, many years that Conan O’Brien and Robert Smigel did the “clutch cargo” bit on Late Night with Conan O’Brien, one of the go-to “guests” was Arnold Schwarzenegger. And nearly every time, Schwarzenegger mentioned a single one of his movies, and he always referred to it as “the smash-hit holiday classic Jingle All the Way.”
Jingle All the Way was far from the biggest hit of Schwarzenegger’s career, but it’s a film that has largely endured.
Like his other big comedies, Kindergarten Cop and Twins, Jingle All the Way got a lot of mileage with Arnold’s physicality ― it’s just sort of hilarious for a man of his size and looks to be in a normal, real-life situation that doesn’t involve action, robots, or violence. That’s also always been the case whenever Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson or John Cena has appeared in a comedy.
Directed by Brian Levant, 1996’s Jingle All the Way, which was released 25 years ago this week, is a holiday comedy that also features a sprinkling of satire about consumerism.
Schwarzenegger plays Howard Langston, a workaholic mattress salesman who never has enough time for his son. For Christmas, he’s promised his young son (Jake Lloyd, the future Anakin Skywalker) a Turbo Man doll, the toy that’s in high demand that season.
But with the Turbo Man doll in short supply, Howard spends most of the movie on a wild chase around Minneapolis and St. Paul looking for one. He fights another dad (Sinbad), who ends up blowing up the radio station KQRS, while a neighbor (Phil Hartman) tries to seduce his wife (Rita Wilson).
It all ends in ridiculous fashion, with Arnold playing Turbo Man in a parade, and his son somehow not recognizing him, despite Schwarzenegger not looking anything like anyone else on earth:
One other notable thing about the film is that it was filmed and set in Minneapolis and St. Paul, and functions as perhaps the best travelogue film of the region, with the possible exception of Purple Rain. Sure, it pretty much treats the two Twin Cities as interchangeable, and the parade at the end isn’t one that really exists, but a generation of Minnesotans have pointed and recognized the locations.
While it may not have really been a “smash holiday classic,” Jingle All the Way is an enjoyable, very funny film that’s become a holiday tradition.
Jingle All the Way is streaming on Disney+.