Santa with Muscles (1996) — Hulk Ho-ho-hogan’s yuletide travesty

“I thought it was Christmas, not Halloween!”

Justin’s rating: It’s like when a candy cane breaks into dozens of pieces before you can get it out of the wrapper.

Justin’s review: C’mon, you knew that sooner or later we had to get Santa with Muscles on this site! It’s one of those iconic bad Christmas movies that everyone seems to know about but nobody seems to have seen it. So I did. I seen it. I seen it real good. And now I’m going to have to go float in a bathtub of eggnog until my sense of reality returns.

So far, having seen part of Hulk Hogan’s acting library, including this, Mr. Nanny, and Suburban Commando, I feel quite comfortable in saying that the man is completely lost trying to land a joke, show realistic emotion, or use normal body language. I don’t expect a lot out of fake wrestlers-turned-actors, but my standards are a little higher than what I’m getting here. Yet despite never starring in a hit movie, Hogan kept plugging away at the job until he hit rock bottom with Santa with Muscles.

Let’s take a look at it. Hogan plays a rich dude who spends his days beating up his staff for practice(?) and playing a lot of paintball. After fleeing from cops for no good reason whatsoever, he hides out in a mall, dresses up as a mall Santa, and then conks his head in a garbage chute. Naturally, at the bottom of said chute is a mall elf who needs cash and figures than an amnesiac Santa is a perfect mark. The elf tells Hogan that he’s Santa. Hogan is cool with this. Then Hogan beats up some guys trying to rob a charity right in the middle of the mall court. It’s clear we’re going great places with this storyline.

The actual conflict comes from a sinister dude — who I assume is also rich, considering his mansion and servants — played by Ed Begley Jr. I never really liked Begley Jr much to start with, and every performance I’ve seen him in has lowered my estimation of the man.

Anyway, Bagels Jr hires a bunch of evil scientists (who have various powers such as “electric hands” and “stethoscope”) to help him with a plan to dig up magical crystals residing underneath the smallest church orphanage you’ll ever see. I think they had perhaps four kids, one of whom is Mila Kunis. But Santa says ho-ho-no way to this, becoming the unlikely defender of the weak in the middle of the brightest California Christmas you’ll ever see on film.

Listen, I’m not one for picking well-known terrible films and then outright berating them for being terrible. Well, I am, but I try to be fair about it. What makes Santa with Muscles grating isn’t the premise here. The premise is actually workable; who wouldn’t want to see Santa beat up bad guys? That’s got some potential.

The issue is that the filmmakers took the dial labeled “’90s Zany” and turned it as far as it could go. This means that while the movie is full of wall-to-wall comedy, it’s not the actual kind of comedy that anyone laughs at. You know, where everyone mugs the camera to the fullest extent of the law, where every joke is telegraphed from a mile away, and where Ed Begley Jr hires thematic evil scientists to prance around.

The poster child for everything wrong in this movie is the mall elf (Don Stark), who spends the bulk of the runtime following Santa around trying to rob him. You know, rob him more. This elf never stops talking and overacting, and it won’t be long before you wish Santa would use his muscles on him. Preferably on his head, repeatedly.

With that kind of comedy at work in Santa with Muscles, watching this without any strong medication or snarky robots is so unbearably tedious. There are moments, small moments, where I was distracted by oddities such as seeing Star Trek III’s Robin Curtis in something other than Star Trek III. But it just wasn’t enough, and so I ended up with a stocking full of coal for all of my patience.

Didja notice?

  • I haven’t seen this little girl yet, but her narration is already so annoying that I hope she gets every grinch that’s coming to her.
  • They steal the orphanage’s Christmas tree?
  • All cooks should be ready to attack home invaders with meat tenderizers
  • This guy’s got 386 rules
  • Cops love it when you shoot paintballs at their cars during high speed pursuits
  • Pink headrags and tan camoflauge is interesting paintball attire
  • These are the most ’90s bad guys ever, which is to say, goofy and not threatening in the least
  • “Santa fraud”
  • The way the elf freaks out when he robs Santa
  • “Am I a sheep? Am I a bunny?”
  • The kid’s face when Santa comes in without a beard
  • “I love to eat a lot of reindeer meat.”
  • ATMs are very particular about which thumbprint you use?
  • That’s the worst song ever, kid
  • The one scientist acts like a goblin
  • Yeah, the kids use the church CATACOMBS as a club house.
  • Also, what California church has catacombs?
  • Or, for that matter, a church in North America?
  • Sure, this cave is full of exploding crystals
  • What’s with the steam pipes in the lawn?
  • Yet the crystals don’t explode when you’re slamming them against each other

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