Blu-ray Disc Review
Release Date: AVAILABLE NOW
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger (Howard Langston), Sinbad (Myron Larabee), Phil Hartman (Ted Maltin), Rita Wilson (Liz Langston), James Belushi (Mall Santa), Jake Lloyd (Jamie Langston)
Directed by: Brian Levant
Written by: Randy Kornfield
Two dads, One toy, No prisoners.
Arnold Schwarzenegger departs from his usual role of the hunter or the hunted. This time he pursues an action toy for his son for Christmas. Howard Langston (Schwarzenegger) is a busy man like the rest of us sad North Americans. There is never a moment in the day when he is on time and he tends to forget important things as well. Howard never makes it in time for important family events and this is evident when we see him miss his son’s karate purple belt grading. His son is saddened and to make it up to him, Howard promises a Turbo Man action figure for Christmas.
Unbeknownst to Howard, the Turbo Man doll has been sold out for a long time. It’s the day of Christmas Eve and there are very few shopping hours left. Once in line at the mall before the doors open, Howard meets Myron, another father on the last-minute hunt for the same doll. Knowing there are two of them and possibly only one doll, the film becomes a hectic and relentless city pursuit for the Turbo Man. His annoying neighbor Ted who always seems to do better for Howard’s family when Howard isn’t around outdoes him. So Howard can’t fail because he must prove to his family that just for once he can be on time and get something done right. Can he restore the faith during this Christmas season?
I love these kinds of films. Despite how silly it is, any film that has every possible obstacle for a character to achieve his pursuit is always fun. It’s hilarious to see what people do in desperate situations just to get a doll (or anything we really want for that matter). Even before the dolls are given out, people are ganging on each other and beating each other up just to get this materialistic toy. I can’t decide now if I should laugh at the situation or not since just recently a Wal-Mart employee died from being trampled on by black Friday deal seekers. It’s these people who I stay away from, and is the reason why I stay home with my family on Boxing Day rather than wandering amongst the insanity.
This film also touches upon another sad reality – despite how much time in the year we have to do our Christmas shopping, so many of us do it on the last day at the last minute. When that happens, the gifts are often thoughtless and often enough what we’d really like to give for Christmas, there is no chance at all to get it because of sell-outs or the time it takes to obtain it.
Speaking of sad realities, Fox continues the practice of forced trailers once the disc is put in the player. You’ll find Alvin and the Chipmunks, Home Alone, Fantastic 4, Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer and Eragorn. These aren’t selectable in the main menu either because there are no trailers selectable from any menu? Where is the Jingle All The Way trailer? Oh, I’m sure I’ll find it as a forced trailer on another Blu-ray disc in the near future. Why Fox continues this strange practice of omitting the film’s theatrical trailer on the disc and then having it find it’s way as a forced trailer on another disc is beyond me…
VIDEO QUALITY: 3.5/5
Fox has dug up the 2004 transfer for the anamorphic DVD release. While it was acceptable for DVD, it doesn’t hold up for reference HDTV material. The minor flaws noticeable on the DVD are more apparent in HD, the worst offender being edge enhancement that is noticeable from beginning to end. This little white line snaking along the curves and corners of the image affects contrasting edges. This artificial sharpening also seems to bring out noise a bit more, making film grain feel more digital, harsh and gritty rather than analogue and natural. All else seems OK with the source for the 2004 remaster. Image contrast is good; gray skies look like an overcast winter day, white levels don’t appear blown out and black levels are good if not just a little high. Colours look good, maybe just a bit subdued for that blah winter look, but perfectly acceptable and comfortable in my book. The only exception is during the Santa Clause warehouse scene with Belushi: the coats of Santa can be so red-hot many of them border orange! The coats (and just the coats) are grossly exaggerated for this sequence (and it’s one of the extended sequences in the movie), but the movie returns to normal when over. Resolution is good giving HD the better choice over DVD even when the original photography has a few soft shots. The print has minor marks throughout but it isn’t distracting.
AUDIO QUALITY: 3.5/5
The disc has a DTS-HDMA encode of a 5.1 soundtrack, directional effects and all. Jingle All The Way has an active front sound stage, engaging rears, and a pounding LFE when asked. It’s enjoyable to listen to with re-EQ engaged, toning down some of those aggressive frequencies. Music and effects are mixed appropriately for a film without anything really standing out as exceptional. Sound stage depth and phantom imaging is lacking. The soundtrack relies heavily on direct speaker locations. I had the impression that the center channel volume was a bit lower or that dialogue wasn’t mixed as high as what I’m used to hearing. Alternatively, maybe the two main channels were a bit too loud, I don’t know. I just found that the blend between the three wasn’t that good with this film; a volume gap seemed to make the channels not seamlessly blend with each other as center channel information sometimes felt overpowered.
TACTILE FUN!!: 1.5/5
TRANSDUCER ON/OFF?: ON
A few bumps happen in this movie but they appear mostly during the parade climax. The bass is heavy and I’m sure many will love it, but I found it a bit too exaggerated and I enjoyed it less.
SPECIAL FEATURES: 1.5/5
There isn’t a lot of content on this disc. Aside from using seamless branching to access the Director’s Cut, you can access the four deleted scenes and watch them in sequence. They are presented as the whole scene (probably the full branched section) so it includes many minutes of the theatrical cut before and after the deleted one. The runtime of this feature is almost twenty-one minutes even though actual cut scenes add up to about four minutes total. It’s full HD plucked right out of the movie.
Three SD 16:9 featurettes are included: The Making of a Hero (15:29), Superkids (8:12), and Turboman Behind the Mask (8:11). They are geared towards a child audience so for once kids can actually enjoy features they understand and won’t find too boring.
IN THE END...
To sum it up, the video is good, the audio is alright, and the features are ok. I’ll end this review off singing you Howard’s little Christmas tune: Jingle bells, Myron smells, Ted laid an egg. Thieves who steal broke my wheels and Turboman got away. Hey! (-you won’t find that one in the deleted scenes)
December 23, 2008.