Review: Jingle All The Way (1996)

Composer: David Newman

Label: Promotional Release

Catalogue Nr.: Promotional Release

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This was among the films I have watched when I was still a kid and it was my first ever cinematic encounter with the 'Gouvernator' so please cut me some slack. I know very well that Brian Levant's Christmas mayhem Jingle All The Way is far from being a good movie but even today I can still enjoy it as an undemanding, relaxing experience whenever its on cable during the Christmas holiday season. The film's premise is certainly familiar to most of us: Imagine all your kid wants for Christmas is an insanely sought-after action figure and you have to go shopping in the last possible minute. The horror comes in when they are all sold-out. It's what happens to Howard Langston whose son Jamie dreams of owning a doll of his favourite hero but Howard is so busy with his job and forgot to buy the damn toy. On his Christmas eve quest for the figure he meets the crazy mailman Myron Larabee who essentially shares Howard's problem and as soon as he is accidentally rubbing Police Officer Hummel the wrong way, his problems really begin because time is short and there ain't no turbo mans left! As mentioned above, this is all brainless and often over-the-top fun with an hilariously crazy finale when Howard 'becomes' Turbo Man and Myron turns into his evil opponent. 

The score:

Eleven years ago when I came out of the theatre there were just two things I begged Santa to have under my Christmas tree: A turbo man action figure and a score CD with David Newman's music. Well, I could have done without the doll but in the end I was screwed because there was neither the figure nor a score CD coming out. Thankfully, the secondary market has a lot of surprises ready for those who wait... and boy, was it a long wait until I finally had the promo in my hands. How come I am so ecstatic over this score as it is just another David Newman comedy score? Maybe because it's one of the best comedy scores this guy has ever written. Newman already had a brief history of scoring movies for director Brian Levant. Both worked together before on the big screen adaptation of The Flintstones (1994) which carries yet another good but largely unfocused score by Newman. In Jingle All The Way, Newman offers light-hearted fun as he musically jingles along with Howard Langston on his chase for the turbo man. However, it's not just all light-hearted comedy scoring because there is also a whole lot of adventurously rousing and highly melodic scoring that David Newman is so good at but is hardly given the chance to do.

We are already graced with the first adventurous action burst in the "Main Title" where Newman is introducing his main thematic material for the Turbo Man hero while the action series is aired on TV and enjoyed by little Jamie Langston. Although there are a lot of unmistakeable David Newman trademarks in this truly exciting piece, a closer examination reveals that some moments must have had a temp-track as a basis. In particular the opening fanfare and the bridge of the theme sound a bit suspicious as they are close to Craig Safan's score for The Last Starfighter (1984) and there is also a bit of Jerry Goldsmith's Patton (1970) within the brass, however the theme for turbo man itself as well as the short theme for his enemies is purely Newman and a lot of well-orchestrated, over-energetic fun to listen to. The following tracks are more traditional over-the-top comedy scoring ala David Newman that graced films like The Flintstones (1994) or The Nutty Professor (1998). "Howard At Work" is an ostinato-driven piece for a evening-at-the-office montage with occasional French horn variations of the main theme like in the following track "First Traffic". It's actually quite clever scoring when you realize that Newman slowly starts to associate variations of his main theme and eventually the turbo man theme with Howard, who becomes a turbo man himself in the end. "Howard And Hummel" has a short moment of comedy in a gentle Christmas fashion and the main theme playing on muted trumpet as Howard is caught driving with breakneck speed by motorcycle squad officer Hummel. In "I Missed It", the troubled relationship between father and son is getting musical attention with sad piano tones that have become a cliché with this type of family movie.

 A short, full orchestral burst of Newman's "Turbo Man" theme accompanies a scene where Jamie impersonates the commercial for the toy. Howard promises to buy Jamie the toy for Christmas while more emotional music with a piano statement of the turbo man theme follows as heard in "Howard And Jamie". The cue has some funny, over-the-top accentuations near the end when Howard realizes that he has yet to buy the toy. "The Reindeer" is a short, wacky outburst of French horn action. It's really great fun to hear Newman and the different orchestra sections going to the edge of sanity and offer some really energetic pieces like "Into The Store" or "Abusing The Help"  where you can literally hear it in the wild, mickey-mousing clusters that people are falling over each other while rushing into a toy store to get the remaining turbo mans. Newman wonderfully plays at the crazy side of Christmas within these tracks. "Abusing The Help" also has a nice secondary theme for Howard going which is very lovely, upbeat and is heard whenever he has some luck during his hunt for the toy. "Late Delivery" is basically a stand-alone moment for that same theme. "Hummel Again" is almost a Thomas Newman like piece in the way it combines strings with horns and unusual synth orchestration. You may have wondered why there aren't any hints to Christmas tunes yet. Well, here they come and quite fittingly it is Jingle Bells that his gently quoted on flutes in "Crooked Santa" and the cue concludes with an overly serious snare drum horns combo. "Riot In The Workshop" is an insane musical mickey-mousing action set piece with a busy horn section when Howard unknowingly walks into the workshop of a gang of counterfeiters where a brawl starts.

The following tracks "Jamie Walks Home", "Jamie Hangs Up" and "Xmas Dream" are brief and feel more like unnecessary, utterly sentimental interruptions to the otherwise exciting fun which continues shortly after with "To The Station" where we are delighted with a full statement of the secondary happy-Howard theme. "Music Box Bomb" has an interesting sound design moment at the beginning that sounds like a low roaring saxophone and "Gift Certificate" continues with insane action music, this time with low screaming trombones and whirling strings. "Bomb #2" is a reprise of the horn/strings moment from "Hummel Again". "The Star" is more on the Christmas side again with playful, light-hearted moments alternating with sneaky passages and there also a quote of Silent Night. Howard is "Breaking And Entering" the house of his neighbour to steal his son's turbo man while the music only carries on with what was heard in the track before. "Second Thoughts" plays some gentle twinkle-tones when Howard realizes what terrible things he is doing to get a toy. French horn dominated action music kicks back in when the neighbour's reindeer appears and chases Howard through the house. "Talking With Reindeer" is yet another cue that alternates between different moods, from gently sentimental to whimsical moments. "Howard In Taxi", "Howard Sees Ted & Liz" and "Howard Runs From Hummel" are basically identical as they share the same string ostinato idea while "Howard Runs From Hummel" has some brief action bursts as well as a short quote of Jingle Bells on celesta. Howard has by now reached the big Christmas parade where he is looking for his son only to be accidentally put into a turbo man costume.

What follows is a 16 minute feast for David Newman fans. In "Showtime & Parade" the composer gives a lengthy, full-bodied and energetic rendition of his Turbo Man theme over a length of more than 4 minutes as the parade rolls by with Howard as the turbo man. Brass and French horn fanfares are heroically blaring while e-guitars shredder in the background though the whole arrangement remains transparent and is just damn exciting to listen to from start to end. It's one of those glorious moments that makes you wonder why David Newman isn't scoring the big summer superhero blockbusters of our times. The battle between Myron and Howard leads to a lengthy, insane action track from Newman when "Howard Saves The Day". There is a lot going on in this 6 minute powerhouse cue where Newman also occasionally hits some unpleasant tones but overall its damn fun. My favourite moment is a hyper speedy statement of the main theme. I don't know how anyone can possibly play this at such a speed and really I don't want to know what energizers the players took to pull that one off. Anyways, this cue is right up there with Newman's finest action moments like the ones from The Phantom (1996) that his fans treasure so much. "Rescue Jamie & Finale" is the usual candy-coated, outright emotional burst of big finale music forming the emotional resolution of the film with swelling strings, soothing piano and occasional rousing fanfares when Howard has impressed his son and everyone is happy again. A rendition of the turbo man theme leads over to the ending coda.

Review by Andreas Creutzburg

 

RATING:

Score as heard in the film: 85%

Score as heard on CD: 81%

TOTAL: 83%

 

The presentation:

That Jingle All The Way appeared on the secondary market as a promo is not exactly a big surprise as the majority of David Newman's scores don't enjoy much of an existence outside of promos and bootlegs, a situation that annoys many of his fans. However, in the case of Jingle All The Way it took surprisingly long until a secondary market release appeared despite many requests from fans. This release contains a total of 47 minutes which covers all original material Newman composed for the movie minus some arrangements of classical music pieces that played during a mall chase in the film. The sound quality is very good though the higher frequencies are maybe a tiny bit muffled and not as clear as they could be. Even outside the camp of Newman admirers this score has a large number of followers and since this is a 20th Century Fox owned product from start to finish, I would not be surprised if this one finds its way into the Varese CD Club one day. It is clearly a likely candidate and fits the CD Club profile nicely as Robert Townson is a David Newman admirer and there are still far too few albums of his music out there..   

Presentation by the Label: Promo

 

Summary:

If you can have fun with David Newman's usually over the top orchestral mayhem for comedies spiced with some truly excellent thematic development and exciting action set pieces then try to have a listen to Jingle All The Way. This is clearly not your stereotypical Christmas score as the mixture between Christmassy orchestration and heroic comic book scoring is a bit unusual, yet still the whole comedy affair is handled a bit too stereotypical. But that is not much of a problem because the music flows surprisingly well as few comedy scores do because Newman thankfully focused his comic musical accompaniment on the crazy, hectic side of the holiday business. And then, there is the finale with some of the best David Newman moments ever that are hard not to enjoy. David Newman fans simply have to have this album for the final 3 tracks alone (let's face it: there is no way around them for you, guys). If you don't want to go through the trouble of finding a promo copy then just have some more patience because I expect this one to be released at some time in the future. At least it seems like a good candidate for the Varese Sarabande CD club.

 

Tracklisting:

01. Main Title (1:58)
02. Howard At Work (1:32)
03. First Traffic (0:21)
04. Howard And Hummel (0:28)
05. I Missed It (1:11)
06. Turbo Man (0:32)
07. Howard And Jamie (3:16)
08. The Reindeer (0:17)
09. Into The Store (0:39)
10. Abusing The Help (1:25)
11. Late Delivery (0:21)
12. Hummel Again (0:30)
13. Crooked Santa (2:02)
14. Riot In The Workshop (3:28)
15. Jamie Walks Home (0:29)
16. Jamie Hangs Up (0:45)
17. Xmas Dream (0:22)
18. To The Station (1:30)
19. Music Box Bomb (1:22)
20. Gift Certificate (0:43)
21. Bomb # 2 (1:16)
22. The Star (1:02)
23. Breaking And Entering (0:34)
24. Second Thoughts (1:29)
25. Talking With Reindeer (1:47)
26. Howard In Taxi (0:29)
27. Howard Sees Ted And Liz (0:17)
28. Howard Runs From Hummel (1:18)
29. Showtime & Parade (5:36)
30. Howard Saves The Day (6:26)
31. Rescue Jamie & Finale (4:01)
32. Here's To You (unused; 0:22)