Remember the days of live-action family-friendly musicals — when classics like Mary Poppins, The Sound of Music and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang dominated the big screen?
Thankfully, such films are no longer relics of the past.
Netflix’s Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey (PG) is the latest live-action musical to target families, joining Beauty and the Beast (2017), Mary Poppins Returns (2018), Aladdin (2019) and The Greatest Showman (2017) as recent entrees into that unique genre.
Jingle Jangle, though, might be the most kid-friendly of these recent films. In fact, it might be the most family-friendly movie Netflix has ever made.
The movie follows a young father and inventor, Jeronicus, who lives in the fictitious village of Cobbleton and owns a famous shop, Jangles and Things, which sells “games, gadgets and gizmos.” Jeronicus’ latest invention is his best one yet: a doll (known as “Don Juan Diego”) that can talk, sing and dance. It practically has a mind of its own — and it likely will make Jeronicus a world famous millionaire.
But then tragedy strikes. Jeronicus’ apprentice, Gustafson, steals the doll and the blueprints, as well as Jeronicus’ “book of inventions.” Jeronicus is unable to recreate his masterpiece. Then his wife dies. Then his daughter — unable to cope with his constant grieving — leaves him.
Jeronicus becomes a hermit and a shell of his former self. Years later, though, his young granddaughter (his daughter’s daughter) returns to Cobbleton to meet the grandfather she never knew. Can she help him rediscover the joy of life?
It stars Oscar winner Forest Whitaker as Jeronicus, Keegan-Michael Key as Gustafson, and Hugh Bonneville as the banker. Phylicia Rashad also has a key role.
The all-black cast was intentional: Director David E. Talbert (who also is black) told the Willie Moore Jr. Show he grew up watching Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Mary Poppins and wanted his son to see “these magical wonderful movies like I did” but with “people in it that look like him.”
Talbert also said the movie has biblical themes, including ones about forgiveness and grieving.
“There are Bible stories all through there. Jeronicus is Job,” Talbert told Faithfully Magazine.
It contains no coarse language, no violence and no sexuality (minus some slight innuendo by a widow toward the widower Jeronicus). The music is engaging and fun.
Jingle Jangle is rated PG for some thematic elements and peril.
Also, worth watching this month:
The Real Right Stuff (Disney Plus) — It’s a 90-minute documentary about the Mercury astronauts — Alan Shepard, John Glenn and the rest — that helped America catch the Soviets in the space race. Rated PG.
Holiday Home Makeover with Mister Christmas (Netflix) — Expert interior designer Benjamin Bradley uses lights and tinsel to help homeowners take their Christmas decorating to the next level. Rated TV-G.
The Repair Shop: Season 3 (Netflix) — Jay Blades and his restoration experts bring new life to antiques and family heirlooms — such as a 110-year-old camera and a violin with a long history. Rated TV-PG.
Voices of Fire (Netflix) — A church holds a singing contest with the goal of assembling the best-ever gospel choir. Pharrell Williams’ uncle is the church’s pastor. Rated TV-PG.
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 (Netflix) — Flint Lockwood and his friends travel back to Swallow Falls island to stop food-animal hybrids from taking over the planet. Rated PG for mild rude humor.
Disney’s A Christmas Carol (Disney Plus) — Ebenezer Scrooge learns about generosity, love and grace in this classic Charles Dickens story. Warning: Due to a few frightening scenes, this one’s best for older children. Rated PG for scary sequences and images.
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and entertainment for more than 15 years. He is the husband of a wife, Julie, and the father of four young children.