"Santa With Muscles" is a 98-pound weakling of a comedy, with other movies certain to kick sand in its face during its limited theatrical run in regional release. The Hulk Hogan starrer may generate some business as a sell-through homevideo item, but even very small children won't find much here to ho-ho-ho about.

“Santa With Muscles” is a 98-pound weakling of a comedy, with other movies certain to kick sand in its face during its limited theatrical run in regional release. The Hulk Hogan starrer may generate some business as a sell-through homevideo item, but even very small children won’t find much here to ho-ho-ho about.

The Hulkster toplines as Blake Thorne, a Scrooge-like millionaire who becomes a real sweetheart when, through a series of plot contrivances, he comes to believe he is the real Santa Claus. Ironically, this transformation is the total reverse of Hogan’s recent real-life career move, as his rep has gone south since his glory days as a pro wrestler.

Thorne has amassed a fortune by marketing health food and dietary supplements , but wealth has turned him into a selfish, self-indulgent brute. Fleeing the police after a rowdy paint-gun battle gets out of hand, Thorne hides in a shopping mall and dons a Santa suit as a disguise. But after he receives a blow to the head, he develops amnesia. Lenny (Dan Stark), a shifty character who’s working as an elf in a Christmas display, takes advantage of the situation: In the hope of gaining access to the big guy’s wallet, he convinces Thorne that the millionaire is the genuine Santa.

Taking his new role very seriously, Thorne wanders off to a needy orphanage. Unfortunately, the establishment just happens to be on a site coveted by Ebner Frost (Ed Begley Jr.), a mad scientist who knows rare, energy-charged crystals can be mined far below the building. Aided by flunkies who are naughty, not nice , Frost plans to evict the orphans. Thorne, of course, has different ideas.

“Santa With Muscles” is written, acted and directed in the style of a second-rate Saturday morning kids’ show from the 1970s. The orphans are cloyingly cute, the bad guys are frenetically cartoonish, and the humor is broad , physical and painfully unfunny. Hogan evinces little of the charisma he has displayed in previous bigscreen outings most notably, “Suburban Commando” and gives a performance that seldom rises above the level of good try. The supporting players range from barely adequate to thoroughly obnoxious. Clint Howard is particularly embarrassing as a highway patrolman on Thorne’s trail.

Working from an irredeemably bland screenplay, John Murlowski directs with all the enthusiasm of someone going through the motions to pay off a debt. Michael Gfelner’s cinematography is likewise bland, and other tech credits are equally unremarkable. Call it the movie equivalent of coal in a Christmas stocking, and you won’t be far off the mark.

Santa with Muscles

Production

A Legacy Releasing presentation of a HIT Entertainment production in association with Cabin Fever Entertainment. Produced by Brian Shuster. Executive producers, Harry Shuster, Jordan Belfort, Danny Porush. Co-producers, James R. Rosenthal, M. Charles Cuddy. Directed by John Murlowski. Screenplay, Jonathan Bond, Fred Mata, Dorrie Krum Raymond.

Crew

Camera (color), Michael Gfelner; editors, William Marrinson, Stephen R. Myers; music, James Covell; production design, Chuck Connor; costumes, Cathryn Wagner; sound (Dolby), Patrick M. Griffith; line producer, Paula F. Major; assistant director, David Vincent Rimer; casting, Tom McSweeney. Reviewed at AMC Meyer Park 16 Theater, Houston, Nov. 11, 1996. MPAA rating: PG. Running time: 97 MIN.

With

Blake - Hulk Hogan
Lenny - Don Stark
Leslie - Robin Curtis
Clayton - Garrett Morris
Elizabeth - Aria Noelle Curzon
Taylor - Adam Wylie
Sarah - Mila Kunis
Helen Chu - Jennifer Paz
Hinkley - Clint Howard
Ebner Frost - Ed Begley Jr.
With: William Newman, Robert Apisa, Pierre Dulat, SteveValentine, Kai Ephron, Diane Robin, Kevin West.
Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more