Well before Bill Goldberg stepped foot in a sleigh with 2005's Santa's Slay, it was 1996 that gave us the original buff Santa with the 1996 Hulk Hogan family/action/comedy/drama/tentacle porn vehicle, Santa With Muscles. Directed by John Murlowski (who has directed at least four Christmas films, a movie called Cop Dog and an Amityville sequel), Santa With Muscles has the distinct honor of being in the bottom 100 on IMDB, which calls to me as much as the top 100 films do. And what doesn't speak to me more than a Christmas film from the 90s staring Terry "Hulk" Hogan as a jacked up Santa that's trying to help save an orphanage? How about you add in Clint Howard as a bumbling cop, Garrett Morris as, well, as no one that was really worth the time, sadly, and Ed Begley Jr. as the film's villain, and you have yourself the perfect recipe for a merry good time.
In the first five minutes of Santa With Muscles, things start out with a serious bang as the viewer is introduced to Blake, while engaged in a hand-to-hand battle with a gardener whom he tells "never stop to smell the roses" after kicking his ass. Next, Blake goes on to fight a chef, a chauffeur and then the gardener again, who attacks Blake with a weed whacker that does very little against Blake's serving platter shield. Seriously, I was pumped harder than a Jersey Shore fist as this was going down. As it turns out, this was all just the daily workout regimen of fitness guru, Blake Thorne, a rich kid that became even richer (and greedier) as he grew older and more successful. The only things that matter to Blake are his physique, money, himself and having fun, despite the rules.
It's Blake's reckless/careless attitude that creates a run in with the law, namely Clint Howard, who's character Hinkley proves that competency is not an attribute found in B-Movie police officers. Blake takes refuge in a mall, disguising himself as a mall Santa, but his costume doesn't fool Hinkley and before you can say HO-HO-H…Blake takes a shitter down a trash chute, getting knocked the fuck out in the process. Can you guess what happens next? That's right, Blake has amnesia and it just so happens that there is a down on his luck mall elf named Lenny (Don Stark) that was offered a fifty spot to find Santa before all the kids waiting to see him go into anarchy mode. You see, Lenny is in deep with a bookie, and when he finds an unconscious Blake he sees an opportunity to get to his money by fooling him into believing that he is indeed, Santa Clause. With Muscles. And blond hair. And a golden tan. And daughter named Brooke.
This newborn Santa discovers his path as he is attempting to play mall Santa, when a group of punks try to steal donation money from a local charity. They are noticed by a young bystander who yells for help, and the golden look of "someone's getting their ass kicked in!" that comes across Blake's face is quite priceless. Needless to say, there is an ass whopping of deserving proportions that pumps up all the bystanders and the children. Santa is a hero. But his heroic efforts are not yet finished as he realizes that the orphanage that the charity was for needed his help. He wasn't sure why he knew this but he did (it was in the script) and with a reluctant Lenny in tow, off he went to save the orphans! As it surprisingly turns out, the orphanage did need Santa's help as the threat of being shut down by a germaphobic mad scientist named Ebner Frost (Ed Begley, Jr.) was lurking ever so closely.
Now, mad or not, why would anyone want to shut down an orphanage? I mean, I guess if you really hate Annie you might want to, but otherwise I see no point. Well, that is unless there's a secret cavern underneath said orphanage. A secret cavern containing some incredibly rare and priceless rocks, the kind that sparkle and illuminate but also have the tendency to explode. Thankfully one of the orphans (played by a pre-hot Mila Kunis) learned about them in school and has the perfect memory to be able to tell the adults exactly what they were and what exactly causes them to blow-up. This was actually a place where the kids hung around from time-to-time, and the fact that there was a cavern under the orphanage where the kids would hang out, but the people who took care of those kids never once thought about checking it out, is kind of odd. I mean, those kids are orphans and all, meaning, they could be doing all sorts of bad shit down there - like making meth and babies - and no one would be the wiser. Great job, adults.
So for much of the film it's Blake in a modded Santa suite vs Ebner Frost and his baddies, filled with heart warming interactions with a bunch of kids that are only a little lame. And of course, there is plenty of over-the-top action to be found. I mean, I never thought I would see a cop try and use a bazooka to take down a criminal that would be facing no more than a reckless endangerment charge. In fact, isn't using a bazooka in public considered reckless endangerment? I also never thought I would see Blake Thorne's low-fat brand of salad dressing used as an oil slick to send a police car off its course. The action isn't the only aspect where Santa With Muscles shows up with a sack full of joy. I actually heard one of the orphans use the line: "see ya, wouldn't wanna be ya!" And of course, everyone laughs and cheers about it. It's amazing. But not as amazing as the moment where the little girl sings actual magic in the church. If I could describe it, I would, but I dare not embarrass myself by trying. Just trust me on this one.
I don't think I've even come close to giving this film its due justice with this review. I only feel as if I barely touched the surface of what makes Santa With Muscles a romp worthy of at least one night of laughter every holiday season, but trust me, this is some cherishable crap. Any film where a bad guy uses an oversized candy cane as a bo staff has a piece of my heart. It's gold. Fucking silver and gold.