NR | 1h 36m | Comedy | 2023
While I’ve seen my share of Christmas movies, it’s rare to see one that accurately captures the gestalt of the era it is produced in. That’s not necessarily a bad thing; it’s understandable that many folks just want to focus on good cheer and well wishes during this most important holiday.
However, ACLJ Films (American Center for Law and Justice) recently took a courageous approach to the Christmas-film genre with their first full-length title, “Jingle Smells,” directed by Daniel Lusko and starring John Schneider (of “Dukes of Hazzard” fame), hilarious comedian Jim Breuer, Academy Award nominee Eric Roberts, and talented actor Ben Davies.
The film touches a lot of hot-button topics but does so in relatable and humorous ways. Metaphorically speaking, this is the cinematic equivalent to the 800-pound gorilla in the room that people try to pretend doesn’t exist.
Mr. Davies plays military veteran Nick Gutman, who has recently returned from Afghanistan to his hometown of Pativa, New Mexico, and is having problems readjusting to civilian life. So much so, that the film begins with Nick languishing in the local jail.
It’s not long before his father, Dusty (Schneider), shows up to rescue his ne'er-do-well son from trouble, once again. Fortunately for Nick, his father is the chief of police and, although he scolds his son, Nick is soon released from jail.
In a comical yet stern father-son talk, Dusty gives Nick a choice: Either Nick gets a job or he’ll have to wear an orange jumpsuit and do community service right alongside other “perps.” A garbage truck suddenly pulls up, ironically emblazoned with “Valor Waste Management” signage, and Nick meets his new garbagemen co-workers: Michael “Uncle Mike” Perkins (Brad Stine), and Wilson (Maurice Greene). Understandably, Nick isn’t too thrilled about the new job, but, considering the alternative, takes it anyway.
It is soon revealed that after returning home from Bagram (Afghanistan), Nick hit the bottle pretty hard, which resulted in him tallying up multiple felonies. He lives in a dilapidated apartment, where he has only a couch to sleep on and eats cold pizza for breakfast.
One day, Uncle Mike arrives to pick Nick up with the garbage truck and reveals that they’ve been hired by a client to clandestinely transport a large number of boxes from a warehouse to a dump site. The two men become curious as to what exactly is in the boxes since everything is so hush-hush, and they end up taking a peek into one of them.
Stone also refused to participate in a fundraiser for a certain political candidate, which was the final coup de grâce for his career. He became yet another victim of the toxic cancel-culture mob, and his likeness was soon replaced by a digitized AI facsimile.
Meanwhile, after talking to a popular podcaster who collects figurines, Nick realizes that the action figures that he and Mike have been ordered to dispose of are worth a lot of money; they'll now be deemed collectors’ items. Since his bills are piling up, Nick intends to appropriate some of the soon-to-be-disposed-of figures and make a small fortune.
However, Nick comes across Silas (Tyson Jones), a young boy who is being bullied by other kids because he lives in a lower-income neighborhood. When a couple of mean girls taunt Silas, Nick sticks up for the boy, and the girls dub Nick “Jingle Smells” because of his occupation. Nick brushes off the insult and walks Silas home.
Soon, the good-hearted nature within Nick surfaces, and he decides to take a portion of the action figures that he has secreted in his apartment and give them to the disadvantaged kids in Silas’s neighborhood, starting with Silas and his struggling single mother. Dubbing himself “Jingle Smells,” he delivers the toys to the family’s doorsteps while donning a mask and Santa Claus hat that Mike gave to him as a gift.
A Satirical Send-UpI was impressed with how this film takes so many current topics and weaves them seamlessly into the film, one way or another. For instance, as trust in America’s corporate news outlets continues to dwindle, the film pokes fun at a mainstream news show hosted by Blake Ashton (Jim Breuer) and Julie Vincent (Jaclyn Stapp). The so-called journalists deliver highly skewed news reports that misrepresent the facts of Mason Stone’s actions. It’s a satirical send-up that showcases Mr. Breuer’s hilarious brand of quirky comedy.
And the interactions between Nick and his father, Dusty, are emotive and realistic. While most of the mainstream film and TV industries ignore the crucial importance of father-son relationships (and modes of communication), this movie emphasizes how instrumental a loving, caring father can be in a son’s life.
One of the film’s executive producers is Sean Hannity. “We’re breaking away from mainstream Hollywood and doing something totally different,” Mr. Hannity says on the movie’s official website. “'Jingle Smells’ is a hilarious and heartwarming story filled with a great message and void of all the crazy agendas being presented by those other entertainment platforms.”
Indeed, “Jingle Smells” not only touches on many important topics, such as being supportive of our vets, stressing the importance of strong families, and having faith in a higher power, but it also has some truly inspirational scenes that the entire family will enjoy. Simply put: This is grade-A holiday entertainment that both Christians and non-Christians alike can revel in.