“Jingle Jangle” is a timely, groundbreaking, and imaginative film that reflects universal themes viewers of faith are unlikely to miss and presented in ways that young viewers will likely remember for a very long time.
“There are Bible stories all through there. Jeronicus is Job,” writer/director David E. Talbert (“Almost Christmas,” “Baggage Claim”) told Faithfully Magazine about his new Netflix film.
Jeronicus Jangle, played by a pitch-perfect Forest Whitaker, is similar to the Old Testament figure in that he, too, suffers seemingly incurable losses that test the mettle of his faith.
“You’ve had everything, you’ve lost everything and you’ve lost your faith and you’ve lost your ability to believe,” Talbert said. “How do you push past that?”
For Jangle, it’s his inquisitive granddaughter Journey, played by impressive newcomer Madalen Mills. Journey arrives in the nick of time—before a pivotal Christmas deadline—to pull the near-curmudgeon toy inventor out of his state of disbelief. In the end, she helps him to recapture his destiny and recover what was stolen.
Indeed, “Jingle Jangle” is a story about faith and love, patience and persistence. It’s about family, redemption, and reconciliation. It’s about justice and joy. There’s even a parable in there about how vanity and pride can lead one down the wrong path. Ultimately, though, “Jingle Jangle” is about good overcoming evil and the human spirit rising above adversity—pushing “past the pain [to] get to the possibility,” as Talbert put it.
For him, these are familiar themes. Talbert, a seasoned playwright who marks “Jingle Jangle” as his fifth feature film, grew up attending a “storefront holiness church” in Washington, D.C.
“I grew up in words touching people, words changing people’s lives. Hope of a brighter day, a better tomorrow…. [I]t induces itself in my work, it’s in my DNA,” he said.
More Than a Holiday Movie
Described by its creator as a “visual spectacle with heart and humanity,” the nostalgic musical film certainly lives up to the hype.
“Jingle Jangle” immediately draws viewers in with its intricate sets, vibrant costumes, and catchy tunes all framed with an Afro-Victorian flair. Young viewers are sure to be entranced by the spectacle of it all as the story unfolds in the pleasant town of Cobbleton. Older viewers will notice that “Jingle Jangle” tips its hat in one way or another to fantasy favorites like “Mary Poppins” and “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.” The movie also shouts out “Black Panther,” and even manages to reference iconic ’80s flicks like “Short Circuit” and “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.”
“Magic and wonder is not confined to a season,” Talbert insisted when asked about “Jingle Jangle” being classified simply as a “holiday film.”
“We’re full of wonder and magic and innovation—all that it abounds, always. So the story wasn’t about making it about a season, which is a magical season. I mean, it is a season full of wonder…but I want the film to remind people that it exists always,” he said.
Still, Talbert lifts the genre to a new height with “Jingle Jangle” by centering the story on a predominantly Black cast. Working alongside his producer wife, Lyn Sisson-Talbert, and inspired in part by their son, “Jingle Jangle” is especially dear to Talbert—who’s been working on the story for about 20 years.
While some viewers might find the PG movie a bit long, its stellar cast and creative presentation make “Jingle Jangle” deserving of a spot alongside other holiday classics such as “It’s a Wonderful Life,” “A Christmas Story,” and “Miracle on 34th Street.” But the fact that Talbert intentionally made “Jingle Jangle” Black-centric sets the movie apart from its genre predecessors, as those beloved yet problematic works either erase or marginalize the Black presence.
“I just love what it represents as a whole,” Talbert said of the film. “I love that it is inspiring, that it is a spectacle, that it presents us in the best possible light, and that it gives people of color around the world images to aspire to be and prove.”
In addition to Whitaker and Mills, “Jingle Jangle” leads include Keegan-Michael Key, Hugh Bonneville, and Anika Noni Rose. Phylicia Rashad, Ricky Martin, Justin Cornwell, Sharon Rose, Lisa Davina Phillips, and newcomer Kieron Dyer, also feature in the film. “Jingle Jangle” includes original songs by John Legend, Philip Lawrence, and Davy Nathan with original music by Philip Lawrence and Michael Diskint.