VERIFICATION: Jungle (2020)

Magic is not only in what you have lost, but also in what you still have.

Film reviews

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Every year at Christmas I try to find a good balance between my usual catalogue of holiday films and new films. In 2020, however, things were different. I had hoped for a return to normal when my favourite holiday was approaching, but I think we largely agree that this was not the case. I haven’t had much time to watch Christmas movies, new or old, although I hope to change that next week. A friend of mine left a brilliant review of a new Netflix Christmas movie called Jingle Jangle, and because I really like Forest Whitaker, I decided to take a look at it. Is it a Christmas classic, or is it better to forget it? Well, let’s see.

Jingle Jangle: The Christmas trip opens with a spectacular scene in which a grandmother (Phylicia Rashad) reads a story to her grandchildren on Christmas Eve. Your grandson wants to hear it on Christmas Eve. But to cheer her granddaughter up, she chooses Jingle Jangle, the story of Hieronica Jangle (Justin Cornwell), the world’s greatest inventor. Hieronick leads a perfect life with his wife Joanna (Sharon Rose) and daughter Jessica (Diana Babnikova), a promising young inventor. He even had a loyal pupil in Gustafson (Miles Barrow). But on what should have been Jerome’s lucky day, everything changed. The package came with the last part needed to create Don Juan Diego (Ricky Martin), a living puppet, who talks, walks and sings. This would undoubtedly be Hieronick’s greatest invention and take the beginning of his career to new heights. Gustafson, jealous of Hieronick’s success and feeling disadvantaged, left behind a book with inventions by Don Juan Diego and Hieronick. Although this betrayal hurt Jerome deeply and left him without a plan, he did not give up. As his products stopped selling and Gustafson became more successful, things became unclear. Hieronick was devastated by the death of his wife Joanna. He became desperate and turned his business into a pawnshop. After that loss, Joan pushed Jessica away, and she left as fast as she could. Years later, the story resurfaced when Journey’s granddaughter, Hieronica, forged a letter from him to Jessica to invite her to her shop for Christmas. Will Hieronique, faced with his distant family, be able to set the record and return to the invention?

This movie has a great cast. I love Forest Whitaker in general, and his presence really made me want to see the movie. He plays the role of the ancient Jerome perfectly, and I am very satisfied with his vocal performance. As much as I admired Whitaker’s playing, I didn’t know he could sing. Nothing beats Anika Noni Rose (Dreamgirls, Princess and the Frog) to change her life and become a professional singer, because adult Jessica surpasses him of course. But his voice is beautiful and they give him songs he can really bring, which you appreciate. This aspect of his performance is a pleasant surprise and a welcome change after years of live musicals full of shitty songs and car tunes. The last live action movie musical I remember and which has always sung well was The Greatest Showman in 2017. I like this movie a lot more than those in the plot and character departments. I’m also looking forward to seeing Rose in a musical, especially if she’s so eccentric and amazing. I haven’t seen much of her, and I think she’s more of a stage actress, but I admired her dominant voice in The Princess and the Frog, and she brings an appropriate presence on screen. Seriously, put this woman in other musicals. You can keep your Emma Watson, Amanda Seyfried and so on.

Phylicia Rashad is deliciously eccentric. Her relationship with her grandchildren (Ria Calvin, Kenya Sandy) is credible and allows her to finish the main story in a solid book, even if it doesn’t take much time. Justin Cornwell is also a great player, the young Hieronymus, full of hope and confidence in his climax. It contrasts sharply with Hieronikus Whitaker, distraught and resigned to the loss of all that was dear to him. Keegan-Michael Key is perfect as Gustafson. I have a few problems with the character I’ll talk about later, but none of them are related to his performance. He’s another actor who surprised me with his singing talent, and he’s very funny and charismatic. Ricky Martin is as good as Don Juan Diego. This movie has a great cast and I don’t want to talk about it too much, but I will say that the children’s actors are great. Madalen Mills, in the role of the traveler, has a beautiful voice, and she has good chemistry with Forest Whitaker. It is easy to understand why she annoyed him in the beginning and why he finally kissed her with all his heart.

The songs in this film are for the most part absolutely exciting. Actually, I’ve never heard of Davey Nathan, but I’d like to know more about his work. Most of the songs advance the plot and develop the characters. My favorite part is making it work for so many reasons. Anika Noni Rose can finally break loose, and it’s glorious. She and Forest Whitaker are great together, and I like that they talk about two different things. Jessica Rose asks if the broken relationship with her estranged father can be saved, while Hieronique literally talks about her invention. For this series I wanted more from Jessica, both because of her character and because I thought her connection with Hieronymus was more interesting and more important than her connection with her daughter. This is the first time Journey meets Hieronick, while Jessica is rejected by him and stands alone. The scenes they share are worth more than waiting for. I expected to enjoy it, but I didn’t think it would make me cry. I also like the songs Journey Not the Only One and Square Root of Possible. They are a little less unique and personal, but they are beautiful and they teach us a lot about their character. The songs of the villains Borrow Indefinitely and Magic Man G are very funny, especially the last one. It’s a big theatre scene and the song stays in your head for days. This label, the opening number of the film, sets the tone of the film and is also very memorable. Again and again an underestimated number that gives Forest Whitaker many opportunities to sing without being in the limelight, and its content is heartbreaking.

I think I really liked the characters in the movie, and I like that. It’s easy to understand the difficulties Hieronique is going through and it’s really magical to see her family give back her love and creativity. I also like many secondary characters, such as Hieronica’s self-proclaimed pupil Edison (Kieron L. Dyer), and Miss Johnston (Lisa Davina Phillip), a singing postmistress with a crush on Hieronica. She also has her own trio of supporting dancers/singers. If his appearances are rather charming, then Hieronick’s disbelief at the sight of him is enough. But I’m having some problems with the characters in the movie. Ricky Martin and Keegan-Michael Key are excellent in their role as villains in the film, but I think they could have been more present in the story. Don Juan Diego doesn’t play a big role in the movie, and I sometimes wondered why Gustafson was so stupid to fall in love with him. Otherwise he doesn’t seem stupid, and as Hieronick suggested, Gustafson could be a great inventor if only he had more patience. Diego is too rude and unflattering for Gustafson to really want to help him and listen to him. What talent or advantage does Diego have for their partnership? Gustafson does all the work while being constantly harassed and ridiculed. I love the two characters themselves, especially Diego’s design. He sounds really cool, and I love Martin’s voice. But as a couple, I don’t understand these characters. What do they have in common except that the story needs a villain? It also feels like the film is trying to juggle too many characters, but in general it’s doing well. It doesn’t spoil the movie, there’s just a lot going on. I also don’t like the climax of the film, where Journey and Edison break into Gustafson’s factory to steal Hieronick’s stolen invention. It’s really fast, too fast actually, but it’s boring. It’s like a boring stop at a gas station that’s only there because it has to be, it interrupts a fun and picturesque walk.

Still, I think it’s simple enough to overcome the flaws of the film. There’s a lot to love here, and it’s really a Christmas movie in every sense of the word. The last few years, to my amazement, I’ve seen Christmas movies that don’t look like Christmas. The Jingle Jangle isn’t like that at all. I’m not sure if this really reaches the territory of the Christmas classic, and we don’t know for how long anyway. But this film is visually great, the music is great and above all very original, and the casting is incredible. If you’ve had a year like me (and frankly I think we all have), then this movie is the warm hug you need. It’s hope, magic, emotion and fantasy. This liberating story of the greatest inventor who only wants to be the greatest father illustrates the Christmas spirit better than many Christmas movies I’ve seen, and I highly recommend it. Make sure you have your dancing shoes – and a box of Kleenex – around.

Package – 8.5

Action – 10

Direction/processing – 7.5

Music/sound – 10

Holiday mood – 10

9.2

Large

There’s a lot to love here, and it’s really a Christmas movie in every sense of the word. Jingle Jangle is visually stunning, the music is great and above all very original, and the cast is incredible.

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