In its time and place, "Jingle All the Way" had potential. Arnold Schwarzenegger had an acceptable track record for comedy ("Kindergarten Cop," rousing one-liners in almost everything else), Sinbad was inexplicably popular and the great Phil Hartman had a key supporting role.
Of course now we all know that "Jingle All the Way" is just awful. Hilariously, stupendously awful. The movie is available on Netflix Instant Streaming, and taken with several swigs of spiked egg nog, it's the most fun you'll have this holiday season.
Arnold plays an all-American (?) workaholic father who ventures out on Christmas Eve to find the rarest, most-sought-after toy this side of Tickle-Me-Elmo. It's called Turboman, and the Terminator has big competition in the form of Sinbad, playing a borderline-homicidal postal carrier who commits multiple acts of terrorism throughout the film. Look, kids, bombs are funny.
This movie has everything: Little Anakin Skywalker (Jake Lloyd) hinting at the horrible performance to come in "The Phantom Menace," Arnold punching a reindeer, a Santa Claus gang fight, slapstick jetpack antics, jokes about perverts on the playground, and, of course, a significant helping of indistinguishable Schwarzenegger dialogue. Arnold's butchering of the word "Turboman" alone makes this a worthwhile experience.
Back in 1996, I was actually excited to see "Jingle All the Way" (I was very young and very stupid). Yet, even the 12-year-old me knew this wasn't going to be the new "Christmas Vacation," or even "Home Alone."
Flash forward to 2013, and I've already watched "Jingle All the Way" twice this holiday season. It's my favorite kind of bad movie - one with ambition and a complete unawareness of its obvious shortcomings. The jokes fall so flat they almost come all the way around to being funny again, that is, if you forget that its jokes are supposedly aimed at children.
I watched a lot of bad Christmas movies this season, and I learned a valuable lesson: Lazy isn't entertaining. The majority of Netflix's Christmas offerings go for bare-bones holiday cheer and skimp on a variety of basic story elements. A great bad movie, one worth learning all of its idiosyncrasies, is the one that tries so hard to be great, only to stumble spectacularly at every turn.
"Jingle All the Way" is that bad movie. It does for Christmas what "Plan 9 from Outer Space" does for science-fiction and what "The Room" does for tantalizing drama. Study it. Let its awfulness consume you. Learn the exact dialect in which Arnold says, "Put the cookie down!"
Relax. There are still good movies on Netflix.
One of the year's best documentaries, "Blackfish," is now available for Instant Streaming. Investigating a series of violent incidents involving one of Seaworld's most visible Orcas, the movie will stir even the strongest supporters of the theme park and its practices.
Also, look for the dramedy, "Prince Avalanche," starring Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch as traffic line painters on a long-stretch of rural highway. Its low-key humor and fits of character-focused drama are a welcome rebound for director David Gordon Green, the "All the Real Girls" director who lost his way with high-concept duds like "Your Highness" and "The Sitter."
Finally, check out one of the last James Gandolfini performances in "Not Fade Away," a drama from "Sopranos" creator David Chase about high school musicians dreaming of stardom in the 1960s.
Tyler Wilson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.