2020 has been one of the scariest years in human history for a plethora of reasons. Sadly, we have spent most of the year living in great fear and unfortunately some of us have experienced great loss and grief.
However, without warning, the holiday season has arrived and a little positivity in the form of feel-good cinema might be what a good therapist would prescribe.
Christmas has always been the holiday season that most people look forward to — regardless of ethnicity, religious beliefs or upbringing. December is the month where we all unwind, spend time with our loved ones and plot for the year ahead. Tradition dictates that this holiday season is incomplete without a Christmas movie. You might be partial to classics like ‘Home Alone’ and ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ or you might be drawn to films that help us understand ever-lasting fictional characters such as Santa Claus and his elves. We grew up on these tales and for the most part, these heartwarming stories were typically centred around whiteness. But we watched anyway. Because we had no choice.
It is incredibly inspiring to see that one storyteller, David E. Talbert (playwright, film maker) is bringing us an original Christmas story with phenomenal black representation. Talbert and Netflix are responsible for ‘Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey’, an adventure for all ages. Jingle Jangle has a star-studded cast; Forest Whitaker (playing the titular character Mr. Jeronicus Jangles), Phylicia Rashad (the regal narrator of the story), Anika Noni Rose (Jessica Jangles, Jeronicus’ only child) and Keegan-Michael Key who is surprisingly wonderful as the villain of the tale, Gustafson. We’re also introduced to a few fresh faces including an extremely talented young lady named Madelen Mills who steals the show as Journey Jangles. Ricky Martin even makes an unexpected appearance but I’ll let you figure out what eccentric role he plays in the story.
Without giving anything away, here is what this magical story entails. Jeronicus Jangles is a toymaker and an inventor. He owns a shop called Jangle & Things and the minute we see his shop, the magic ensues. Children and their parents gather at Jangles’ shop to marvel at his latest creations and he is hoping to make the toy that changes his family’s life forever. Jangles has a beautiful wife named Joanne and a daughter named Jessica. Jessica shares her father’s passion for math and invention. A chip off the old block. Unfortunately, tragedy strikes when Jangles’ apprentice, Gustafson, steals his book of ideas and sells them as his own. This great betrayal leaves the Jangles’ destitute. To make matters worse, Jangles’ wife passes away and his relationship with his daughter is fractured and she moves to another town for good.
The story picks back up 30 years later; Gustafson has run out of ideas for his toys (or rather he has finished stealing ideas from Jangles’ book) and is desperate to ‘invent’ a new toy. Meanwhile, Jangles’ has an adorable granddaughter whom he has never met. Her name is Journey and she is very special. She spends a lot of time playing with toys and examining how everything works. She also wants to get to know her grandfather. Thus in such, Journey is sent to her Grandfather Jerry’s (he hates this name) house to spend the holiday until Christmas morning. Present day Jeronicus is depressed, in debt, moody and in no mood to take care of a child. But Journey is persistent with her charm and curious nature. He’s going to love her whether he wants to or not!
From there, we watch Journey and Jangles’ kid assistant Elliot (played by Kieron L. Dyer ) try to work on a new toy called The Buddy 3000. This toy was designed by Journey’s mother and it becomes an obsession that takes them on a wild adventure that includes running from bad guys and fires, snowball fights, believing in magic all while executing elaborate and catchy musical numbers.
It is hard to say what is more satisfying; watching Phylicia Rashad tell a story while looking like an African goddess (more roles of her in goddess locs please!), Emmy winner Keegan-Michael Key killing his musical numbers or Oscar winner Forest Whitaker dancing to Afro pop. Yes, you read that right. Ghanaian artist Bisa Kidei’s song ‘Grandpa Mi Nie’ is featured in a super adorable scene in the film. The notion that an African song made it into a Netflix Christmas movie is sure to have you beaming with pride. In fact, Kidei, the Highlife singer was contacted by the director himself — it turns out his wife was already a big fan of the artist.
In an interview with Accra-based Hitz FM, Bisa K’dei said “When they told me the movie was coming I was excited. Getting all the love and messages was so beautiful.”
There are several themes that are explored in this beautiful piece of work; including forgiveness, the magic of believing and love of family.
If you’re looking to share smiles, laughter and hope with your family this Christmas, then look no further than ‘Jingle Jangle; a Christmas journey’.