As with most things, Ricky Martin’s vanity is the cause of the trouble.
Jeronicus Jangle (Justin Cornwell/Forest Whitaker) is an inventor and toymaker who owns a store called “Jangles and Things.” One day he receives the final component to his greatest invention, a living doll called Don Juan Diego (Ricky Martin). However, Don Juan resents the idea of being mass-produced, so he convinces Jeronicus’ apprentice, Gustafson (Miles Barrow/Keegan-Michael Key) to run away with all of Jeronicus’ blueprints and become a toymaker himself. Because of the theft, Jeronicus is unable to invent anymore, causing financial hardship. His wife, Joanne (Sharon Rose), dies, and he grows distant from his daughter, Jessica (Diaana Babnicova/Anika Noni Rose), who moves away.
Years later, Jangle runs a pawn shop with his self-appointed apprentice Edison (Keron L. Dyer). His granddaughter, Journey (Madalen Mills), comes to visit him. It turns out that she is also an aspiring inventor and is determined to help her grandfather finally turn things around.
This movie’s advertisement ran on my Facebook page over and over again for three or four days straight so I am hoping that by watching it I have purged myself from that particular algorithmic nightmare. Fortunately, the movie itself was pretty great. I’m not going to say it’s an instant classic, although I imagine some families will hail it as such, but it certainly was a lot better than I would have expected. Like many Christmas movies, it starts with the framing device of a grandmother reading to her children, however, the book is actually revealed to be an incredibly intricate clockwork device that apparently provides moving visuals as she tells the truth. That cues you in pretty early that this film is going to have a magical element, but not the one that we usually associate with Christmas.
This movie runs on artifice and mathemagic. Yes, I’m serious. This movie pretty much allows for you to do anything and build anything as long as you can do the math right. The difference is that math in this film includes quantities like “stupendous” or “impossible,” and somehow these can be used to do things like create targeted snowballs or flying robots. It’s done in a very visually creative style and by couching it in a pseudo-scientific premise, the film doesn’t dive into full-on magic. It doesn’t quite match the steampunk aesthetic, being a little too far into the modern age, but it does have a distinct set and costume style that is easy on the eyes.
The musical numbers are actually a lot better than I expected, particularly Keegan-Michael Key’s opening song “Magic Man G.” They’re not your typical Christmas songs, but that’s to be expected from John Legend and Philip Lawrence, Bruno Mars’ songwriting partner. They’re energetic, they’re fun, they’re clever, and they never feel cheap or cliche. The message of the film about never giving up and the power of belief is great, as is the lesser message of the power of forgiveness. Parents watching with their children should find them inspired and also enjoy the fact that there are a number of fairly adult lines in it, mostly about how Jeronicus needs to start thinking about romance again with his love interest, Ms. Johnston (Lisa Davina Phillip). Plus, it’s just cute.
Overall, just a great movie and a solid addition to the Netflix Christmas lineup.
If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time, Collection of TV Episodes, Collection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.
If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.