When considering the greatest Christmas movies of all time, there is one that is always over looked. Be it journalistic snobbery, or a tragic lack of awareness, this movie is always omitted from festive film lists. The premise alone warrants its place on any list worth its seasonal salt: Evil body building millionaire Blake Thorne (Hulk Hogan) gets amnesia and then believes that he is Santa Claus.
I mean, come on! Just read that again! Who wouldn’t want to see this movie?
You? Everyone else? Me? Yeah, sounds about right.
SANTA WITH MUSCLES, the 1996 anti-classic starring wrestling legend Hulk Hogan has been an unopened gift for too long. Well, we here at THN are going to unwrap it for you.
It’s directed by John Murlowski, the man behind other Christmas classics RICHIE RICH’S CHRISTMAS WISH (1998) and ZOMBIE HAMLET (2011). Both are real, both are forsaken. SWM stars wrestling icon and cinematic suck-magnet Hulk Hogan as a millionaire with more money and muscles than morals. Think Tony Stark, but with the charisma of a sock. Not only that, but he’s a criminal! One day, when making good his escape (I forget from what. Merely acting should cause the fuzz to show up), he dresses as Santa Claus. But, while jumping down a garbage shoot, he bumps his head and BOOM! Instant amnesia.
He doesn’t know who, or where, he is. BUT… He is dressed as jolly old Saint Nick. When he is spotted, he is mistaken for the mall Santa (Did I mention he is in a shopping centre? Well he is). And that is where the fun begins. Not only is he Santa, he’s Santa… with MUSCLES!!
The working title FATHER ROIDS-MAS was not utilised.
So, let’s address what we’ve discerned so far. It is a truth universally accepted that a bump on the noggin = amnesia. Fine. From the BOURNE films to TOM & JERRY, that’s just the way it is. But does it mean that he forgets he’s a douche? It raises interesting questions. His evil ways, are they inherent? Encoded into his very being from birth? Or are they socially imposed? Thus implying that his odious manner is a social construct, bestowed upon him by his wealth and detachment from society. Truly, money does corrupt, for his amnesia has reset him. His default setting is not only friendly, but personifying the festive spirit. Not since IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE (1946) has a Christmas movie said so much about the human condition. The idea of the pure goodness of Christmas overcoming the evils of capitalism is a theme powerfully woven through the oeuvre of director John Murlowski, explored once again in his follow up to SWM and its spiritual sequel, RICHIE RICH’S CHRISTMAS WISH.
So, Hogan does his usual thing. He learns, he laughs, he loves. But this wouldn’t be a Hulk Hogan film without him wheeling out one of his wrestling cronies. In this case, it’s Brutus ‘The Barber’ Beefcake as a sumo lab assistant (that sentence could be the strangest I’ve ever written). He’s not the only familiar (?) face to show up. Cold-hearted scientist Ebner Frost (see what they did there?) is played by Ed Begley Jr. (BATMAN FOREVER, PINEAPPLE EXPRESS) and the eldest kid to befriend Santa is none other than Mila Kunis (FRIENDS WITH BENEFITS, BLACK SWAN). Not only that, but Clint Howard appears as a bungling cop. Howard is one of the great ‘Ooh,-what’s-he-in?’ actors of his age, appearing in the AUSTIN POWERS trilogy (1997-2002), APOLLO 13 (1995) and fellow Christmas classic, THE GRINCH (2000).
It is true that SWM is, at the time of writing, no.62 on IMDB’s top 100 worst ever movies list. But does it truly deserve such a dubious honour? I believe that, in the season of good will, we should make like a Christmas Cracker and give SANTA WITH MUSCLES a break. Yes, it’s the dumbest premise ever. Indeed, the acting is atrocious. Absolutely, it’s about as funny as waking up next to Frankie Cocozza on New Years Day. But it’s got Hulk Hogan in a funny hat. If that doesn’t make it a Christmas classic, I don’t know what does.
We hope you have enjoyed unwrapping this Christmas present.
Now let us never speak of it again.