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Jingle-Jangle: A Christmas Journey Review

Genius toymaker Jeronicus Jangle (Forest Whitaker) abandons his calling after his apprentice Guftofson (Keegan-Michael Key) runs off with his inventions and his wife dies suddenly. It’s only years later, when his granddaughter Journey (Madalen Mills) comes to visit, that he finally attempts to rekindle his spark and rediscover the joy of creating wonders…
If you enjoyed The Greatest Showman but wished it had gone the whole hog and just been a Christmas movie, Jingle-Jangle: A Christmas Journey is the one for you. With show tunes by a team that includes John Legend and a selection of colorful frock coats to make grown men (and women) weep with envy, this new musical has all the same sparkle and sentiment as that hit – though also some of the same pacing problems.
Framed by a Christmas story that Phylicia Rashad reads to her grandchildren, this follows a young toymaker, Jeronicus Jangle (initially played by Justin Cornwell), who creates marvels in a quasi-Victorian, steampunk fantasy. Until that is, he is betrayed by his apprentice (initially Miles Barrow) at the behest of Jangle’s creation, a toy Don Juan voiced by Ricky Martin. Worse, Jeronicus loses his wife (Sharon Rose) soon after. He struggles with the twin blow for years, becoming estranged from his daughter (Anika Noni Rose) and growing into Forest Whitaker, while Guftofson becomes Keegan-Michael Key and gains fame and fortune with his stolen inventions. It takes the arrival of Jangle’s perky granddaughter Journey (Madalen Miles) to get through his gruff, protective shell and, perhaps, set things right.
Cornwell and Sharon’s roses are talented actors and singers, but we could have polished off the first act more briskly, from a storytelling point of view. It takes an age for Journey, our real heroine, to appear, though she’s cute as a button and in fine voice when she does. The adorable robot she coaxes back into working order, the Buddy 3000, accordingly also plays too small a role to become the childhood favorite he seems designed to be, and anything resembling action begins extremely late in the day.

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