Directed by John Murlowski from a screenplay by Jonathan Bond, Fred Mata and Dorrie Krum Raymond, Santa with Muscles has the honour of landing in the bottom rated movies over at IMDb and is often found on many a “worst movies” list. That assessment seems a little excessive, especially considering the context of such a Christmas extravaganza.
For starters, Santa with Muscles is for the kids. Entirely. It features cartoon slapstick violence, with over-the-top villains, a wild paintballing scene that turns into a madcap police chase and Santa Claus as the big hero. There’s even a mad scientist and a case of amnesia cured by a fall into a garbage truck. Also, it stars Hulk Hogan. Not today’s eerie sex tape Hulk Hogan. 1996’s badass “Hollywood” Hulk Hogan.
Here, the Hulkster as the brash and boyish millionaire Blake Thorn. He’s made his fortune selling bodybuilding crap and lives in a big mansion where he plays around all day and fights his staff. A paintball game gone wild leads him to the shopping centre, where he hides out from the fuzz in a Santa costume. After a knock on the head, he loses his memory.
Enter Lenny (Don Stark), a mall elf looking to make a buck. He convinces Thorn that he’s Santa and tries to steal his money, but the new Saint Nick wants to be a philanthropist. He helps an orphanage, which is convenient because the place is the target of Ebner Frost (Ed Begley, Jr.) and his evil minions.
Hogan’s millionaire is every kid’s idea of what a millionaire is, with a guy running around a big mansion playing extreme sports and having nonstop fun. He’s also a narcissistic tool, making complaints about the size of his logo and how he needs to appear more bronzed on said logo. But when he “becomes” Santa, he has a Scrooge-like moment and sees the light.
The story of a cold-hearted millionaire transformed by the screeches of small children is nothing new, but Santa with Muscles tries to dust it off for the sunshine set. The tale is all California, without a scrap of snow or winter to be found, and that’s just the way the Hulkster likes it.
And the villains are all cartoon, with Begley, Jr. a germaphobe and his supporters comprised of a mad doctor (Steve Valentine) and a guy who sprays methane gas (Kai Ephron) and a woman with electrifying powers (Diane Robin). They’re motivated by some sort of magic something underneath the orphanage.
Interestingly, the orphanage only seems to hold three children (Aria Curzon, Adam Wylie and Mila Kunis) and almost just as many staff members. The place is run by Leslie (Robin Curtis), but there are no troublesome notes of romance between her character and Santa.
Managing expectations is a good idea. Hogan is not a good actor and nobody would dare accuse him of that. He performs in the sort of way that confirms countless children are watching, with lines delivered in excessive fashion and all sorts of exaggerated, irritating tics fleshing out the part.
Logic, too, has little use. Nobody assumes various knocks on the noggin could reset the personality of a sociopathic millionaire. Nobody asks impractical questions about why Santa and the little girl are singing “Angel Baby.” Nobody cares that awful puns populate the “screenplay” with lines like “Santa, you sleigh me.”
Nobody would dare confuse Santa with Muscles with a Christmas classic or even a good movie. It stuffs its stocking with dreadful acting, a horrendous screenplay, strident children, and frustrating villains. And, of course, there’s Hogan himself. His Santa seems oddly as it should be: an Immortal presence without timing, direction or range.