Thursday, July 29, 2010

Christmas in July: Santa With Muscles (1996)

Did Santa With Muscles make me reconsider my assertion of only a few days ago that Jingle All the Way is the worst Christmas movie ever made? No, but I can see why it inspires such derision, has a permanent place on IMDb's Bottom 100, and has never been released on DVD (if you want to torture yourself, you can see the whole thing on YouTube, like I did). Santa With Muscles is a more blatantly "bad" movie than Jingle All the Way, a good candidate for mockery on something like Mystery Science Theater 3000 or while sitting around with family members slightly tipsy on eggnog. But the fact that it's so cartoonishly stupid is what makes it less offensive than Jingle All the Way, which is trying in earnest to be some sort of family classic and just missing the mark spectacularly.

Anyway, this movie is bad enough that it doesn't need comparisons. Just check out the unbelievably convoluted plot set-up: Hulk Hogan plays an ultra-rich creator of nutritional supplements who's also a total jerk with no sympathy for others. While he's out in his giant SUV playing paintball, he ends up with a cop on his tail because he's driving recklessly. Instead of stopping and getting a ticket that he could easily pay with his millions of dollars, he leads the cops on a high-speed chase and then ditches his car to hide out in a mall. Wait, there's more! To avoid being spotted by the cops (he's wearing military fatigues and looks like Hulk Hogan), he grabs a Santa suit and puts it on as a disguise. The cops spot him anyway, and while they're chasing him, he falls down a garbage chute, hits his head and gets amnesia (of course). An unscrupulous elf working at the mall finds his wallet with a bunch of money and credit cards, so he decides to take advantage of the Hulkster's addled state by telling him that he actually is Santa Claus. After foiling some robbers at the mall, Santa Hulk decides to protect the orphanage whose donations they were trying to steal.

Follow that? Amazingly, that's not even the main plot of the movie -- that's just how we get to the plot, which is really about a goofy evil industrialist (Ed Begley Jr.) who wants to destroy the orphanage (which only houses three kids) to get at the precious minerals directly underneath it. Santa Hulk defends the little orphans (one of whom is played by a young Mila Kunis) and defeats the bad guy and his henchmen (who all have different "scientist" personas for no apparent reason). Christmas is saved, I guess.

Really, not much commentary is needed beyond that insane plot summary to understand how bizarrely awful this movie is. Hogan is, of course, a terrible actor, and his conversion from callous millionaire to lover of orphans doesn't come across in any way. The characters, especially the villain and his henchman, would probably be more suited to a Saturday morning cartoon, and even Hogan's wrestling moves in the action sequences look pretty weak. But on the other hand it's so completely nonsensical that I couldn't help but be sort of amused by it. The director has somehow also made three other awful-sounding Christmas movies (including a direct-to-DVD movie about Richie Rich's Christmas, one about a cute dog at Christmas, and an upcoming one about a postal worker who answers Santa's mail), along with a bunch of obscure horror movies, and that mix of different genres of badness successfully encapsulates the occasionally entertaining failure that is Santa With Muscles.

The True Meaning of Christmas: Leave the orphans alone.

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