On the Second Day of Christmas, my true love sent to me…Two Curling Duels and a Hell Goat in a Pear Tree.
crowbait: My friends like it when I hate a movie. Maybe it doesn’t carry in writing but I get pretty animated when I discuss the costly failure of films like Transformers (two word review: Silence humans!) and 300 (Thermopylae was a wet squib compared to Marathon and the Spartans were too high and mighty to take part in that Athenian victory. Where’s their movie?) This might be reason to celebrate because there is plenty to hate about this painful film, on ice! (Please note that the opinions expressed and the insulting language used in expressing them are all my own and do not necessarily reflect the attitudes or feelings of my cohorts.)
The film opens with a prelude as the Horrible Family sits down to Christmas dinner. (Don’t worry about the obvious paradox with the later events of the film, Santa has a time machine or something. Shut up.) Rich, selfish, vain, cheating jerks; they are designed for us to hate them so that seeing them ripped to pieces by murderous Santa will be a laff riot. This scene also features some TV star power. Chris Kattan and Fran Drescher cash a check for five minutes of unfunny jokes about the economic divide before drowning in eggnog or getting tossed through the furniture. James Caan wisely chose to go un-credited for his role as Father Horrible. Oops, cat’s out of the bag now! From Sonny Corleone to getting a turkey leg driven through your head by a WWE retiree. There’s a career arc for you.
Anyway, after they’ve spent all their “talent” our story begins in earnest. Douglas Smith plays Nicolas Yuleson (puns!) as a melancholy boy who doesn’t understand why his grandfather is building a bomb shelter in their basement and making toys that double as weapons just in time for Christmas. His friend Mac (Emilie de Ravin) commiserates and wonders when they will finally become boyfriend/girlfriend instead of just pals. Soon enough the reason for the season is revealed.
Santa has been released from parole and is on a killing spree. With seasonal paraphernalia and years of moves learned in the WWE he murders his way through the town. Crushing nativity displays, stabbing eyes with candy canes, feeding people to his helldeer, pinning a Jew to the wall with his menorah and using some suplex slams off the turnbuckle to silence carolers. For good measure he throws in pun-punctuation on the kills ensuring that you’ll groan 30+ times before the credits roll.
The path of destruction leads to Nicky boy and his granddad. See, 1,000 years ago Santa was actually the most evil bastard in the world. It’s understandable; his father is the Devil. Anyway, an angel was sent to curb his rampage and, knowing Santa loves a wager, he challenged him to contest. If the angel won, Santa was to bring goodness and cheer to the world every year on his birthday (Christmas! What delightful irony!) for 1,000 years. If Santa won, the angel would go to Hell. Seems a little uneven to me but I’m not much of a betting man.
There’s an actual clever moment here as the film transitions to stop-motion animation in the tradition of Rankin-Bass specials like Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer to tell the story of Santa losing his bet with the angel. Though the fact that the bet is a curling competition makes me think the writers were hoping that we are all still amused by horseshoes-as-Olympic-sport-because-ice-is-involved. Well don’t worry, it doesn’t last long before we’re back to the painfully unfunny reality of the story. Turns out, granddad is the angel! He loved a human woman so much he came down to Earth to live as a mortal and raise a family to be the guardians of the true story of Santa and maybe one day stop him by some means, maybe? It’s not really clear. I would think that an angel who is meant to save the Earth should have a better plan than hiding in his basement but I guess that’s why I’m not a screenwriter.
Speaking of plot holes, why isn’t Nic one of the Nephilim? Sired of the intermingling of an angel with a mortal woman? Shouldn’t he be a giant and an abomination in the eyes of God? Might have made the movie more interesting and they could have gotten another WWE performer for the part. Oh well, missed opportunity.
Once the truth is revealed Santa finally finds the address, offs granddad, and Nic and Mac run for their lives thinking that they can lead Santa to a group of hunters out for the traditional Christmas day clay-pigeon shoot. You remember those days? Standing outside in the snow for what must have been 10 hours firing shotguns into the sky. What delightful memories. I think Irving Berlin wrote a musical about that. On the way they stop by the school so that Santa can crack wise about Charles Dickens and so that murdered granddad can reappear as an angel again for some reason and challenge Santa to a rematch on the hockey rink. Santa cheats of course but he’s lost his magical immunity to bullets. For some reason. Nic and Mac run for it but granddad can’t accompany them on their path. For some reason. Really, was anyone writing this thing at this point? Mac and Nic get him to chase them the rest of the way to the gun club who blast jolly old Santa out of the sky with an anti-air missile which they have. For some reason.
But there’s a twist! Santa bailed out and now he must return to the North Pole and plot a sequel’s worth of revenge. Good f***ing luck with that.
Bill Goldberg’s turn as the psychopath is all you would expect from a man who trod the boards in stadium after stadium in shows of pretend melodrama and real head trauma. Everyone else? I don’t know, maybe they could have turned in a decent scene or two if it weren’t for the drivel that pours from their mouths like so much curdled eggnog. If there’s a single line of dialog that wasn’t an overwrought pun or some sarcastic nonsense I must have slept through it. Screenwriters, here’s a tip: After you’ve finished your script, do a search to find out how many times a character delivers the line “Ya think?” If it is more than once, consider revising your script. If it is more than twice, revise your script. If it is more than three times, burn the script, burn your computer and go find some other way to express your talent. Maybe graffiti on restroom stalls. And this comes from someone who likes Archer!
The film ends with one last clever touch in that each member of the cast and crew have a little check next to their name for naughty or nice. Unfortunately there’s some bad music with worse lyrics about evil Santa to muck that up. So, in summary, bad movie. Not even so bad as to be ironically funny, just bad. But hey, there are a half-dozen topless strippers with funny names who die in a fire!
Does it pass the Bechdel? Mac is the only female in the main story with dialog. There are a few brief interactions between the Horrible Family at the opener but nothing of substance. “Will you say grace?” “Dear Lord, we thank you that we are not poor . . .” That, and the strippers. Stay classy Santa.