Saturday, December 15, 2012


Directed by Jeannot Szwarc

Mmm, McDonald's! I could really go for some Big Mac's and fries and nuggets! Also, some Coke! Delicious, delicious Coke!

Speaking of Coke, the producers of the 1985 flop SANTA CLAUS: THE MOVIE were probably snorting a tone of cocaine when they came up with this holiday "classic."

Basically it broke down to this: the producers of the box office smash SUPERMAN thought they could translate that same success onto another character, one in the public domain that they didn't have to pay rights to. And Santa Claus is sort of like Superman, in that they both fly, and that they both can see through women's clothes with X-Ray Vision.

"I wish they had just let us freeze to death."
Unfortunately, Santa didn't quite adapt as well to the Hero treatment, and what resulted was a fever dream of bright colors, possible musical numbers that never start but seem like they should, blatant product placement (by McDonald's, Coke, and, of all things, Pabst Blue Ribbon), and John Lithgow chewing so much scenery he must have dislocated his jaw.

SANTA CLAUS: THE MOVIE decides to give Santa (the Big Lebowski himself, David Huddleston) a backstory. It seems before he became the jolly old elf the world knows and fears  loves, he was a simple toymaker living in some undisclosed century. He and his wife and his two reindeer would ride around in the snow and give wooden toys to kids. How charming!

Well not so fast, because in the first fifteen minutes of this film, Santa, his wife, and his two reindeer freeze to death. Merry Christmas!

I'm gonna burn this mother fucker down!!!!

Riding back home, they get caught in a blizzard and all die. But wait! Luckily for them, they happen to die at the spot where a magical Christmas tree appears, and out of this glowing magic tree come elves!

The elves bring them all back to life, and the head elf announces himself by saying "I am the one called Dooley!" All the elves introduce themselves that way; it's a weird elf thing, I guess. Also, one of the elves is named Patch, and played by lovable drunk Dudley Moore, who does NOT look good with lipstick.

The elves make Santa a job offer: they'll make toys, and he'll deliver them to all the boys and girls of the world, in ONE NIGHT! How can this be? I don't know, there's some bullshit prophecy at play and Santa is the chosen one, and he can control time, or something. It's all very weird. Also, the elves dance.

As the centuries tick on, Santa entrusts the elf Patch with coming up with bigger, better ways to make toys, so Patch pulls a Henry Ford and constructs an assembly line. Unfortunately, it produces really shoddy toys that fall apart, which gives Santa a bad name. So, uh, I guess in the universe this film takes place in everyone is aware that Santa Claus is real? I mean, kids get into fist-fights over the subject, and say things like "My dad says he's all washed up!" which implies parents are sitting around discussing the productive merits of Santa Claus.

Santa promptly fires Patch, and Patch heads to New York City (for reasons unknown), and he also brings with him the magical gold dust that makes the reindeer fly. Also, I am making none of this up--this is exactly what happens.

Anyway, Santa befriends a little street urchin named Joe. Joe is always dirty, wears a leather jacket, has no family, and he really wants to eat some fucking McDonald's. In one scene, he stares through a window and longingly watches as families shove fist-fulls of fries into their faces. Joe has a friend name Cornelia, whom he refers to as "Corny."

Corny, like Joe, has no parents. But unlike Joe, she lives in a big mansion, which is owned by her cartoonishly evil uncle, B.Z., played by John Lithgow with such gleeful over-the-top-ness that you can't help become enchanted as Lithgow glowers and snarls and cackles and chomps on cigars.

Lithgow is a big-shot toymaker. So, wait--everyone is aware of Santa Claus, yet there is still a need for toymakers? Whatever. Anyway, Lithgow has just gotten in trouble with Congress because his toys catch fire, and he sells teddy bears stuffed with nails and glass (????). He needs some good P.R., and he gets it in the form of Patch, who shows up and offers to help B.Z. create something AWESOME for Christmas. Their awesome idea? Lollipops that make people FLY!!

"I want you to get nude with me in a bathtub, and then I'll cut you femoral artery." 
This is bad news for Santa. Kids love these magic lollipops so much that Santa sinks into a Sylvia Plath-like depression, where he mopes around and probably contemplates sticking his head into the gingerbread man oven.

Meanwhile, Lithgow wants to keep the success going by launching CHRISTMAS 2, and selling magic candy canes this time. There's a catch: these candy canes can explode and KILL PEOPLE. Street urchin McDonald's loving Joe overhears this, and ends up held captive by Lithgow and co., until he is rescued by Patch.

Then it's time for a "thrilling" chase across the skies as Santa and Corny and Patch and Joe ride in their respective flying sleighs and try to avoid exploding.

Did I mention this movie is fucking insane?

There's a weird charm to SANTA CLAUS: THE MOVIE. It's just so weird and off the walls that you can't help but sitting through it. It has a real train wreck effect--there's something more productive you could be doing with your time, but it's much more fun to watch the carnage.

It's so god damn magical!
Also, the film has such wonderfully tone-deaf dialog exchanges such as this:

SANTA: Next Christmas, you and I will have a date!
JOE: Really?
SANTA: Santa Claus never lies, Joe!

It's worth mentioning for a film called SANTA CLAUS: THE MOVIE, Santa Claus is barely featured. He takes a back-seat to Patch, but I guess PATCH: THE DRUNK ELF wouldn't be as good as a title (wait, yes it would...).

The film also features a rather horrifying comeuppance for Lithgow's character: in an effort to avoid being arrested, Lithgow eats a whole bundle of the magic candy canes, and ends up flying up into the cold, dead wasteland of space, where he will likely suffocate to death, after his eyeballs explode out of his head.

Merry Christmas!

SANTA CLAUS: THE MOVIE is a bad, bad movie, but it's so bad you have to see it; also, it gets major points for being a Christmas movie and not once mentioning or even hinting at Christ or Christianity--and therefor I give the film

Four out of Four Lithgows:

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