Something sensational. Something spectacular. Something revolutionary. Everything you need to get into the holiday spirit can be found in the wonderful fictional village of Cobbleton, the center of the newly released Netflix film “Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey.”
This is a story of not only hope and belief, but also restoration amid tragic loss.
In Cobbleton, we meet a young Jeronicus Jangle (Justin Cornwell), a genius toymaker who uses magical, mathematical equations to bring his inventions to life. His toys can fly. Some can talk. Children and adults are in awe of his creations, and they flock to his shop, Jangles and Things: World of Wishes and Wonder, to buy his latest gadgets. Jeronicus has a loving family in his wife, Joanne (Sharon Rose), and his daughter, Jessica (Diaana Babnicova). Jessica is truly a daddy’s girl who is gifted with her father’s inventive talents, and she begins working on a robot named Buddy.
In our world, Jeronicus would have been on a “Forbes 30 Under 30” list as a rising mogul. Cobbleton mirrors our present time in that it is a town of great diversity. The stark differences are that the clothing has a Victorian feel but with more color and pizzazz. There is also no social media or technology. People write letters with ink. Jeronicus, who is black, seems to have nothing holding him back from sterling success. He doesn’t seem to face systemic racism or prejudice in Cobbleton, but he is unaware of another enemy that lurks to destroy him: greed.
This deceptive spirit is found in one of his greatest inventions: a talking Don Juan doll. Manipulative and crafty, Don Juan persuades Jeronicus’ apprentice, Gustafson (Keegan-Michael Key), to steal his master’s book of designs. Decades pass, and Gustafson becomes the richest toymaker in the land by profiting from Jeronicus’ labor. Forest Whitaker fervently plays the older Jeronicus, who grows bitter with a wounded soul. He stops creating and turns Jangles and Things into a pawn shop. Past-due bills pile up, and he loses faith in his innate abilities that once brought his customers so much joy.
“Jingle Jangle” has a great message of faith: specifically, that faith can be restored even when you think it is lost forever, but you must start believing again, no matter how desperate your circumstances look. One of the greatest passages on faith in the Bible is Hebrews 11:1, which says, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” So, with faith, even when you cannot see things working out momentarily, or even for years, as in the case of Jeronicus, the evidence of your overcoming manifests in what you are hoping for.
When Jeronicus stopped making toys, he no longer saw the magical equations that provided him with the instructions for his gadgets. He no longer believed in the aptitude of his hands. He stopped saying that he was an inventor, but the evidence of his true identity was still in his shop. There were unfinished toys that had collected dust in his workspace. Sheets were thrown over incomplete drawings. Although Gustafson had taken Jeronicus’ early toy inventions, he couldn’t steal the gift Jeronicus was born with.
When someone experiences the immense hurt and betrayal that Jeronicus did, reassurance is needed to revive the soul. Jeronicus receives this inspiration from his granddaughter, Journey (Madalen Mills). The name Journey is representative of all the hardships and disappointments Jeronicus endured, and as a child who has not been spoiled by the vicissitudes of life, Journey helps her grandfather restore his confidence. She also restores love in his heart, giving him an abundance of hugs and kisses. With Journey’s faith, Jeronicus begins to see the magical equations for creating toys again, testing and proving his theory of the square root of possible.
I’m sure many people are feeling like Jeronicus as the Christmas season gets underway. There has been a lot of loss this year. There has been a lot of adversity. However, I encourage you not to lose faith in what you’ve worked for and what you have created with your hands. God’s gifts in you are always ready to be used. Look to your circumference of spectacular and your derivative of sensational.
Dr. Jessica A. Johnson is a lecturer in the English department at The Ohio State University-Lima. Email her at email@example.com. @JjSmojc