Forgotten Films is a semi-regular feature on Film Junk where we explore interesting movies that have fallen off the radar or slipped through the cracks over the years.
Everyone loves a good turkey around Christmas, so this week we’ve got a very special movie to satisfy that holiday craving: Santa with Muscles, the 1996 crapterpiece starring Hulk Hogan! Sometimes movies become “forgotten films” for a very good reason, and in the case of Santa With Muscles, it seems perfectly acceptable that the majority of the world is blissfully unaware of its existence. Still, with a ridiculous title like that, I felt compelled to seek out a copy and investigate further. It had to be good for at least a few laughs, right?
In recent years we’ve seen plenty of WWE wrestlers make the transition to questionable acting careers, but many people forget that a handful of the popular ’80s wrestlers had significant roles on the big screen as well. AndrÃ© the Giant played Fezzik in The Princess Bride, for example, and Roddy Piper chewed bubblegum and kicked ass in John Carpenter’s They Live. Then there’s Hulk Hogan, who had a respectable performance as Thunderlips in Rocky III, before going on to headline two family comedies in the early ’90s: Suburban Commando and Mr. Nanny. What you may not realize is that his movie career didn’t end there. Oh no… it continued on with such direct-to-video duds as The Secret Agent Club, The Ultimate Weapon and Thunder in Paradise 1, 2 and 3. Somewhere in there, he also found time to make Santa with Muscles.
The plot is so asinine that it almost seems too good to be true. Hogan plays Blake Thorne, an arrogant millionaire who has built an empire selling bodybuilding supplements. One day, while on the way to play paintball with his buddies, he drives a little bit recklessly in his Hummer and ends up getting chased by the cops. He heads to the local mall, where he ducks inside a storage closet and changes into a Santa costume in order to avoid detection. Unfortunately for him, he ends up getting a bump on the head and wakes up with amnesia, where a crooked mall elf named Lenny recognizes him and tricks him into thinking that he is actually Santa Claus.
Now, here’s where it gets even more ridiculous. An evil scientist (played by Ed Begley, Jr.) is trying to take over an orphanage (an orphanage that houses just three children, mind you) in order to gain access to the vault of magical crystals underneath it. He dispatches a team of three goons to tear the place down: a geologist with a brush, a dominatrix with electrical powers, and a chemist who uses stinkbombs. Blake becomes a superhero Santa of sorts in order to save the orphanage… unfortunately, (SPOILER!) the orphanage gets blown up anyway.
Santa with Muscles was once ranked #1 on IMDB’s Bottom 100, and currently remains somewhere near the #50 mark. There is apparently some debate over whether or not this movie truly deserves to be on the list, but I have to say that sounds about right. Everything about this movie is completely inept from the painful puns to the incompetent action scenes to the thick layer of sappiness that covers the entire affair. According to IMDB, the person who originally wrote the movie sued to have his name removed from the credits… good move! (The three still-credited screenwriters for this film have never written anything else either before or after Santa with Muscles.)
Everyone knows that Hulk Hogan’s acting is atrocious, but wow, I was dumbfounded by his performance here. It’s almost like he’s reading every single line off a cue card, and his eyebrows raise to emphasize every word that is spoken. It’s actually kind of hypnotic. I mean, I know the guy’s a wrestler, but he makes The Rock looks like an Oscar-calibre thespian by comparison.
A 12-year-old Mila Kunis plays one of the children at the orphanage, and in a strange That 70’s Show connection, Don Stark also plays Lenny the elf. Hogan’s wrestling buddy Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake also has a brief appearance as a sumo thug. The only person who brings anything worthwhile to this movie is the always reliable Clint Howard, who plays a bumbling police chief.
It’s not a shock to learn that director John Murlowski has a number of direct-to-video sequels to his name including RiÂ¢hie RiÂ¢h’s Christmas Wish and Amityville: A New Generation. What is pretty mind-boggling is the fact that Santa with Muscles did actually receive a theatrical release. The proof is right here on Box Office Mojo: 98 theaters, and a $220,000 domestic gross. It’s a bit hard to imagine a studio wasting celluloid on such a terrible flick, but I suppose once upon a time a Hulk Hogan Christmas movie may have had a market (albeit a very tiny one).
At any rate, if you find yourself bored over the holidays, and perhaps a little groggy after knocking back a few glasses of rum and egg nog, you just might be ready to experience the Christmas magic that is Santa with Muscles. The movie has never received a DVD release, but if you look hard enough, you might find it on cable somewhere. Otherwise there are various ways to find it online (including YouTube). As a general rule, I wouldn’t recommend subjecting another human being to this movie, but if you need a substitute for putting coal in someone else’s stocking, this little beauty just might do the trick.