Jingle All the Way 2, a WWE Studios film starring Larry the Cable Guy, is a smaller, more modest, lower-energy and certainly lower-budget film than the original from which it takes its name. They share nothing in common except a superficially similar “child wants toy therefore Dad wants toy” plot. It is in every way a less impressive film, and if you handed me both and asked which one I’d rather watch at Christmas time, I’d take this every time.
Everything I mention above is something I actually like about this movie, or at least, something that I think is an improvement over the original Jingle All the Way. I like that the scale and budget of this production are much smaller. I like that it isn’t over-the-top or in-your face. I like that it lacks star power.
Don’t get me wrong. This is not a good movie. But it’s an okay Christmas movie, and a much better Christmas movie than Jingle All the Way.
My take on Jingle All the Way is that it is cynical, mean, and shallow, devoid of enough likeability or humor to balance out its ugliness and grandiosity, and completely empty of spiritually enriching Christmas messaging. Jingle All the Way 2 having absolutely nothing to do with its namesake is a good thing, and in this case a mark of its reversal of all those negative traits.
Larry the Cable Guy plays a character also named Larry (I’ll leave my mean joke aside, you can easily make it yourself), who is a humble, friendly under-achiever. His ex-wife Trish (a woman no one could ever believe would actually marry Larry) played by Kristen Robek, is now re-married to Victor, played by Brian Stepanek. Victor is a successful businessman, the owner of a local box company.
All three of these parental figures love their daughter, who they really had the grapes to name Noel, and Noel loves them right back. But both of these father figures are insecure about the other. And here the movie shows more character depth and humanity than anything that ever happened in the original Jingle All the Way.
Larry is worried that this rich hotshot can buy away his daughter’s affection, particularly at Christmastime, and so he violates his daughter’s trust and reads her letter to Santa which, through some messy child’s handwriting seems to indicate that she wants a Harrison Bear. The bear is this year’s hottest new Tickle-Me-Elmo-like toy, and the plot largely revolves around Larry’s attempts at securing one. Victor, however, attempts to use his connections and money to buy up every Harrison Bear in town so that Larry can’t get his hands on one.
In the end, they pull the oldest sitcom trope in history, Locked In A Room, and these two are forced to own up to their insecurities. It turns out Victor is actually very jealous of how much Noel loves her father, and he’s afraid she’ll never see him that way as well. He sees Larry’s slacker lifestyle as enabling him to be more available and fun than Victor could ever be. Larry, in one of many Blue Collar-style monologues throughout the movie, makes sure to get his due credit: he pays his taxes, he doesn’t owe anybody anything, and he’s worked for every cent he’s ever made. And indeed, Victor says, they actually have this in common.
The movie doesn’t have to explicitly lay this out (which I appreciate), but they’re each successful in their own honest ways, and this holiday has led them to bend their ethics in order to try and win Noel’s love. Coming to an understanding, and with Victor’s plan to steal all the bears now exposed, they have to go out and face the music as an angry town gathers around one of his box truck, where all the bears are stored. Larry stands up to speak on Victor’s behalf, and tells the town that this was all part of an elaborate ruse to get them all in one place so that Victor could actually give the bears away to the town’s families.
Is it perfect? No. Is it Christmasy? Absolutely. There a couple jokes that dogwhistle at right-wing sensitivities (boy, the toy store clerk sure does make sure to give a happy holiday greeting for all the holidays every time, doesn’t he?) which I could have done without, but they weren’t overt enough to feel mean-spirited. In fact, a couple of the movie’s jokes even landed with me.
It isn’t especially well-acted, but Larry the Cable Guy is reliable here as an affable lead, Victor is appropriately neurotic and petty, and Noel’s child actor isn’t awful. The story actually goes somewhere, real Christmasy lessons are learned, and the final reveal about Noel’s real Christmas wish to Santa is genuinely very sweet. This is not as shiny, expensive, or as loud a movie as Jingle All the Way, and it doesn’t have half as much polish. But I’d take this ‘sequel’ over the original any day of the week. I expect to watch it again in future years. And no, I’m not shitting you.
GBU Holiday-Adjusted Rating: 5/10
You can digitally rent Jingle All the Way 2 on all the standard services or, as of the time of this writing, watch it with your STARZ subscription.