“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.