Friday, December 18, 2009

Review: Santa With Muscles (1997)

I...just don't even know where to start. Santa with Muscles. That awkward title just about sums this movie up. Hulk Hogan stars in this little trainwreck of cobbled together plot devices, family movie cliches and bad acting, because haven't you always wanted to see him in a Christmas movie? It's like an early Christmas present! This movie is so bad that it actually placed on the IMDb bottom 100 list. Does it live up to that great badge of shame? Let's find out.

This movie is a undoubtedly retarded in nature, a slow-moving train on an inevitable crash course off a bottomless cliff. It starts out with a little girl writing a letter to Santa Claus about how the orphanage she lives in is about to be evicted by this strange group of scientists who are clearing out the neighborhood. The film then cuts to Hulk Hogan, playing a quote-on-quote "evil millionaire" named Blake Thorne who spends his time getting into overblown kung-fu fights with his personal staff, complaining that his picture on his products needs to be "even bigger" and...doing random Evil Kinevil stunts and shooting paintballs at police cars. Why? Because...I guess he's a millionaire and can get away with it. Oh, and the police apparently have rocket launchers, because there are so many reasons for small-town cops to be carrying rocket launchers around.

So he runs into this mall to hide where coincidentally, a bunch of kids are clamoring to see Santa, who is...missing. Some lady tells an elf played by Don Stark that he has to find the guy playing Santa, so he starts looking. Hogan dresses up as Santa in record time, as the cops were apparently so close on his tail that it wouldn't normally have been possible for them to NOT catch him before that, but I digress. They see through his disguise, chase him into a garbage chute where he gets hit by a large Santa replica falling down from above and loses his memory. This begs the question as to why he doesn't just give up and let himself be caught, as he is a millionaire and could definitely pay the bail, but again, I digress. Don Stark steals his wallet, intending to take money off of it in a truly un-funny and unmemorable running gag throughout the film, and the two become fast friends.

The rest of the movie unfolds with silly, over the top kung fu action, complete with candy-cane jitsu and all sorts of stupid shit, and quieter scenes at this orphanage where there are only three children left. One of them is played by Mila Kunakis, in a decently acted role that still amazes with the fact that she got a career after a movie titled Santa with Muscles. Hulk believes he really IS Santa Claus for most of the movie. Can you smell the hijinks yet? With Stark trying every step of the way to make sure Hulk can't find out who he is, because, you know, that would ruin his get rich quick scheme, the stench is downright suffocating. Just witness the Hulkster's acting talents, too; he sounds about as excited as a cardboard plank half the time!

But that isn't enough to make this movie really suck. Noooo, we haven't been introduced to the villains yet. It is really hard to believe what you're watching when you see these clowns; they are ridiculous. Billed as "scientists," they come out with one guy dressed as some kind of safari ranger, a woman dressed as a weird sort of leather dominatrix, and a guy with big buck teeth and a neckbeard that could pass as a Star Trek nerd. They're led by another guy played by Steve Valentine, whose fantastic acting roles as the photographer in Spider-Man 3 and the Funerary Undertaker in the new Christmas Carol movies will no doubt inspire young up-and-coming actors for decades to come. He is somehow working for another guy played by Ed Begley Jr. How does that hierarchy work again? They want to clear out the neighborhood to mine the powerful crystals underneath the orphanage - because of course, all suburban neighborhoods have powerful crystals hidden underneath them that nobody knows about except for evil, uh, scientists (???). I just have this huge hang-up that any of these people could possibly be real scientists. They're NOTHING like any scientists I ever saw! They're more like X-Men rejects, with gadgets like electric gloves and poisonous gas, or something like that. Scientists? Yeah, and I'm the reincarnation of John Lennon.

There are a lot of really bad puns and one-liners and jokes abound, including Don Stark wearing bunny pajamas at the beginning. How much do you have to pay a guy to sacrifice his dignity like that? And Hulk's Santa getup looks like something you would see in a bondage film. There's even one scene where Hulk gets thrown out of a clock-tower window or something by this automated robot that somehow grabs onto him. Good god, this movie is about as funny as colon cancer!

The end of the movie involves the kids and the workers at the orphanage getting kidnapped by the...scientists...and Hulk remembering who he is and getting his staff together to go save them. Apparently, even though he bought a whole team of guys, Hulk goes in figure that one out...and kicks the bad guys' asses all by himself. It is then revealed that he and Ed Begley Jr.'s character were not only raised in that very orphanage, but were also best friends! Who...forgot that they were raised there...and forgot that they used to be friends...somehow. A good guy and a bad guy sharing a secret past that they don't remember? It's like this movie is taking all the standard cliches and making them even dumber than usual.

So yeah, they beat the bad guys, blow shit up and steal that house the bad guys were operating in, and what did we learn? Absolutely nothing of value. This film is devoid of any kind of rational human logic. From the title alone you know it's going to suck. The plot is just stupid, the holes are gigantic and the humor is unfunny and corny beyond belief. But I have to be fair: it really isn't as bad as some people make it out to be. It's a relatively harmless film and it is kind of fun to watch, albeit mostly in spite of itself. Nobody could make a movie like this and be the least bit serious about it, so the least we can do is not get worked up over it. The main problem is the fact that it could have been a lot stupider, a lot weirder and a lot funnier. As it is, Santa with Muscles is dumb in a forgettable kind of way, being just weird enough to make you wonder what the fuck is going on, but not weird enough to make you laugh most of the time. This was almost B-movie gold, but unfortunately it turned out to be fool's gold.