Well, here it is: an entirely subjective, rough ordering of the IMDb Bottom 100 movies I watched over the course of 2014. If you want to read some thoughts on why there are 104 of them, how they were selected, etc., check out my previous IMDb Bottom 100: COMPLETE post.
I tried to rank these by giving consideration to production values, earnestness, dialogue, acting, plot coherence, off-screen calamity, entertainment value, technical prowess, and sensory/general offensiveness. It wasn’t easy to do, and I tinkered with it constantly while writing it up: there are just too many factors and subjective aesthetic aspects for this sort of ranking to be broken down into a science. In any case: here they are, in a rough order from best to worst:
Happy New Year! Be sure to check back in 2015 for more Misan[trope]y movie reviews and (Plot)opsy Podcasts. Thanks to all of you readers and listeners for making 2014 the best year yet here at Misan[trope]y Movie Blog!
It has been many months, but I can confidently say that I successfully watched over 100 movies from the IMDb Bottom 100 ranking in 2014. That was my goal at the beginning of the year, and here we have it! In no particular order, here are links to my reviews of 104 IMDb Bottom 100 movies.
Let me explain why there are 104 movies, and what those asterisks mean. As it turns out, watching all of the IMDb Bottom 100 is more complicated than you might think for a number of reasons.
Thanks to the international representation that has grown on the list in the past couple of years, there are a fair number of films in the ranking that did not get a Region 1 release: this means that no only was there no official distribution in the US, but there are also no official English subtitles or dubs. For some of these films, like “Daniel der Zauberer” and “Turks in Space”, they have enough of a following that fans have created subtitles so that English audiences can watch them. More often than not, however, these international entries in the IMDb Bottom 100 are just not available in any form to an English-speaking audience. Movies like “A Fox’s Tale” and “Danes Without a Clue”, for instance, just do not exist in an English-friendly form, and aren’t popular enough to have fans distributing them online and creating subtitles for them.
In addition to foreign films that lack English language versions, a number of other movies in the IMDb Bottom 100 simply don’t have any distribution, and similarly lack the popularity for there to be online copies of them available. IMDb Bottom 100 movies like “The Tony Blair Witch Project”, “Anus Magillicutty”, and “Ghosts Can’t Do It” all fall into this category: the first two are just low-budget projects that didn’t get spread around, whereas “Ghosts Can’t Do It” is simply out of print and only available (scarcely) on VHS.
In an attempt to make up for these unattainable members of the ranking, I went back through some archived versions of the IMDb Bottom 100. Because the list is democratic and constantly accepting new votes, movies regularly fall out and break into the ranking, meaning that a snapshot of the IMDb Bottom 100 from 2004 looks very different from the one that exists today. All of the movies in the above list marked with an asterisk were pulled from these archived lists to make up for the missing movies that I couldn’t get copies of.
So, how did I wind up with 104 movies covered? As I mentioned, the IMDb Bottom 100 is consistently shuffling in new movies as votes come in and movies reach the qualification quota of 1500 votes for the list. As was the case with “ROTOR” and “Saving Christmas”, I chose to cover new movies as they popped into the Bottom 100 over the course of 2014. Between covering movies from the IMDb Bottom 100 archive and new members of the ranking from 2014, I managed to tip over 100 movies covered in total. In fact, there are even more IMDb Bottom 100 movies that I could still cover (and in all likelihood I will at some point).
For now, I am going to put the IMDb Bottom 100 on the back-burner: I managed to watch and review over 100 of them in 2014, and I am interested in taking on some new bad movie challenges in 2015. That said, I am planning on doing my own ranking of those 104 movies in the near future, and writing a more in depth retrospective on the challenge after I’ve had some time to mull it over.
As for now, I wish you all a Happy New Year, and look forward to having you back in 2015!
“Blubberella” is yet another entry in the IMDb Bottom 100 brought to us by the much-maligned director Uwe Boll, who was also behind IMDB Bottom 100 flicks “Alone in the Dark” and “House of the Dead”. His immense unpopularity as an individual (among critics and audiences alike) is almost as notable as his his astoundingly awful filmography at this point, something that has certainly had an effect on the public perception of his works. Given that the IMDb Bottom 100 is in many ways based on popularity and public opinion, it is no surprise to see Uwe Boll pop up numerous times in the ranking.
However, “Blubberella” sets itself apart from the typical Uwe Boll fare: not only is it a comedy (not Boll’s strength), but it is also a parody movie. If there is anything that the IMDb Bottom 100 can tell you at first glance, it is that parody movies can go wrong very easily, and Uwe Boll certainly isn’t Mel Brooks when it comes to the craft of cinematic comedy.
Adding to the bizarreness, “Blubberella” is a parody of a Uwe Boll flick that was being filmed simultaneously (“BloodRayne 3”), so it isn’t even aping a movie that the audience would identify with. According to some behind the scenes footage, this was a decision made first and foremost to save money: Boll’s logic was that it would cost the same to make two movies at the same time with the same sets, cast, and crew. In theory, if both movies did well, the profits would be exponentially better. This is an old principal that dates back to the classic Roger Corman B-movies, but those films were usually unrelated apart from the cast and setting: they weren’t designed to be symbiotic.
Personally, I feel that Uwe Boll’s already unpopular personality combined with this economic motivation for the making of the film would have led to a negative perception of “Blubberella” regardless of whether it was any good or not. Unsurprisingly, though, it is absolutely awful. Not only is it the worst Uwe Boll movie in the IMDb Bottom 100, but I personally think it is the worst parody movie as well. That put it is some truly elite company.
The humor in “Blubberella” is not just crass and lazy (just as with the other parody movies in the IMDb Bottom 100, it relies heavily on stereotypes), but it also comes off as generally cruel and bitter. I think just about every joke in the movie punches down, which is generally a poor practice and sets a thoroughly uncomfortable tone to the movie. By the end of the movie, it is pretty clear that Uwe Boll not only isn’t funny, but that he has a lot of personal ire for women, homosexuals, and fat people (not to mention pretty much everyone else). He comes off as even more of an asshole than everyone already believed he was.
Another huge issue with the humor in “Blubberella” comes from the fact that the movie is effectively unscripted: Uwe Boll left an excessive amount of the dialogue up to the actors to improvise (the two lead actors apparently did enough of this to justify co-writing credits on the film). Shows like “Curb Your Enthusiasm” can pull off this style of improvised scripting because of the comedic talents of the players, but it definitely requires a lot of skill from everyone involved for the technique to work. If you haven’t seen poorly done improv before, I assure you that it is some of the most uncomfortable, miserable comedy you will ever come across. In the case of “Blubberella”, the actors just aren’t up to the improv weight that is thrown on them by Boll. In the behind the scenes interviews, it seems like the actors are appreciative of the freedom that they were granted with this style, but I highly suspect that Boll made the decision to go with improv dialogue because he didn’t want to waste the time writing a fleshed out script (time is money, after all). In any case, it doesn’t work, and the end result is poorly paced and painfully unfunny.
As far as the cast goes, the only real bright spot is beloved oddball character actor Clint Howard, and even he doesn’t perform up to his usual par. Worst among the cast list by a mile, however, is Uwe Boll himself, who portrays Adolph Hitler. To put it lightly, his acting is atrocious.
There is nothing to recommend about “Blubberella”: it is a creature spawned from hate-based humor and cheap economic logic. The pacing and comedic timing throughout the film is just awful, and there aren’t any redeeming performances or aspects that can justify sitting through the flick. Worse yet, you can tell how rushed the production was, and it is evident that there was no effort put forth to make this movie. Unless you are planning to watch all of Uwe Boll’s movies for the challenge of it, I would definitely avoid “Blubberella”.
1965’s “Monster A Go Go” is an astoundingly bad film, enough so to be a true separation from the rest of the IMDb Bottom 100. The movie is a patchwork built primarily from parts of an unfinished product (that was poor in its own right), and then supplemented with original footage filmed years after the fact to complete the movie. This has been done with a number of other B-pictures (“They Saved Hitler’s Brain” comes to mind), but “Monster A Go Go” is the most distractingly awful example of this that I have come across.
Apparently “Monster A Go Go” was only cobbled together to fill out the second half of a bill for a double feature. With that in mind, a lot of the flaws in the movie make more sense: the sound issues, continuity errors, inexplicable sets, and abrupt editing are all explained by the simple fact that there was only a minimum amount of effort put into creating the film. The fact that “Monster A Go Go” was also a cheap attempt to salvage an abandoned film certainly contributes to almost all of the most glaring problems in the movie, such as the replaced actors and seemingly unrelated asides throughout the film. The disjointed product of all of these problems is a film so unfocused and bizarre that it is nearly unwatchable and incomprehensible.
As with many of the other IMDb Bottom 100 entries, “Monster A Go Go” owes much of its reputation to the show Mystery Science Theater 3000. However, none of the other movies in the list have the honor of being considered by the MST3k crew as being the worst movie ever to have been featured on the show*. Considering the sort of movies that made their way onto the MST3k screen, that is really saying something. That said, they certainly do their best to make the movie worth the watch, and the episode highlights are worth checking out:
Personally, I am conflicted about Monster A Go Go. It is undoubtedly a spectacle of how to do everything wrong in making a movie. From an academic perspective, that makes the movie kind of fascinating. On the other hand, it lacks much of the entertainment value that people expect from “good-bad” movies. The MST3k riff is fun and makes the most of the overall rather dull movie, but it is still a tough film to sit through if you are expecting to have a good time. Some of the lighting goofs, silly sets, and the hilariously awful ending get genuine laughs, but they are very few and far between. Unless you want to watch a bad movie for the sake of seeing a movie gone terribly wrong, “Monster A Go Go” is skippable. It certainly isn’t the ideal flick to watch with a group of people to have a good time.
Surprisingly, “Monster A Go Go” is pretty low in the IMDb Bottom 100 (it has been sitting in the 80s). Without a doubt, this is one of the most objectively worst films I have seen while going through the list, standing out with movies like “The Starfighters” and “The Maize”. Given the influence of MST3k fans on the IMDb Bottom 100, I don’t expect it to fall out of the ranking anytime soon, but it is quite surprising to see it so low. I am somewhat curious if there is an odd subset of people over-ranking this movie intentionally, because I have a hard time believing that any significant number of people would rate this movie with more than one star in earnest. In any case, it is sitting where it is for some reason hidden within the will of the masses.
Today on the (Plot)opsy Podcast, I am spotlighting a particularly infamous IMDb Bottom 100 film as part of the 15 Days of Bad Christmas Movies: a 1959 Mexican production called “Santa Claus.” Despite the simple title, this is one of the strangest Christmas movies out there: the plot involves Satan, Merlin, some of the creepiest surveillance devices in cinema history, robotic reindeer, and Santa’s captive child workforce who are housed indefinitely in his space castle. I recommend seeking it out.
Be sure to visit my cohorts in the “15 Days of Bad Christmas Movies”:
This may seem to be an obvious caveat for a post covering a movie on the IMDb Bottom 100, but I feel like it still bears stating: “Anne B Real” is not a good movie. However, in my opinion, it is also not an excessively bad one.
When I initially heard the synopsis of “Anne B Real”, I expected that the film would be blatantly offensive, and generally atrocious. Here is the sort version currently on IMDb:
ANNE B. REAL is the coming of age story of a young female rapper, who finds her inspiration by reading the Diary of Anne Frank.
From reading that alone, it certainly seems like there are a lot of ways for the story to go very wrong. As it turns out, “Anne B Real” is basically just a low budget passion project about growing up in the face of adverse circumstance, and is a story that focuses on a young girl slowly gaining self-confidence in her abilities. Again, this isn’t a good movie: it is the sort of thing that wouldn’t make the cut at your average film festival I feel. Mercifully, Anne Frank doesn’t serve as an ethereal rap coach or anything like that, which was what I was expecting. The downside of this, however, is that the movie is really boring.
There isn’t a whole lot to say about the movie: every aspect of it is just a little below par. The writing, the acting, the directing: nothing is offensively bad, but none of it is particularly good. This actually brings up a very interesting question: how did “Anne B Real” wind up in the IMDb Bottom 100? How did this little passion project art film draw so much ire and garner so much attention as to break into the ranking in the first place? Honestly, I have absolutely no idea. The movie is very forgettable and boring, but it is nothing like the rest of the films in the IMDb Bottom 100.
The only other movie where I had this feeling after watching it was “Crossover”, which I covered way back when I first started with the list. That movie is similarly low-budget and amateurish, but not at all painful to sit through if you ask me. Honestly, I’m inclined to say it is better than “Anne B Real”, if only for Wayne Brady’s role in the movie as a skeevy sports agent.
There is a pretty notable similarity between “Crossover” and “Anne B Real”, and as much as I hope it isn’t why these films are so lowly ranked, it may very well be the case: both films have almost entirely black casts. One of the downsides of a no-holds-barred democratic ranking system like the IMDb Bottom 100 is that it will inevitably reflect biases among the users. I’m not saying that IMDb is like Stormfront or anything, but I am curious if there are some latent tendencies in the IMDb userbase to be unfairly harsh on films like “Crossover” and “Anne B Real”. They are both bad movies, but they are also ranked much lower and judged much more harshly than I think they should. These aren’t Ed Wood level movies by a long shot.
In any case, there aren’t any compelling reasons to recommend “Anne B Real”. The movie is pretty dull, and there isn’t much in the way of entertainment value to be had. The story isn’t all that bad, but it just feels sloppily executed and poorly paced. It is squarely on the wrong side of mediocre when it comes to bad movie enjoyment, but I would rather sit through this countless times than take on another Ulli Lommel movie.
There are plenty of things to complain about with “In The Mix”. It is definitely not a flawless movie (it isn’t even a good movie), but it was damn near refreshing compared to most of the things I have had to watch in the IMDb Bottom 100 as of late.
Most of the complaints I have seen about “In The Mix” are completely valid. More than anything else, I have seen a lot of criticism of the stereotype-laden script, which also spends an inordinate amount of time worshiping the lead character played by Usher. The way women treat Usher in the film is far beyond unrealistic, to be sure, and the constant reliance on Italian and African-American stereotypes is both lazy on the part of the writers and tiring to sit through. Even more baffling is the fact that Usher has no loss of mobility after being shot in the shoulder at the beginning of the movie, and is allowed to act as a bodyguard while recovering from a serious injury. However, I’m going to focus on some positives with this review. Because, shockingly, I found a lot of things positive worth noting in this train-wreck of a movie, particularly in comparison to other IMDb Bottom 100 flicks.
First off, “In The Mix” bears a significant similarity to a handful of IMDb Bottom 100 members, primarily in that it is structured around and starring a non-actor celebrity. But, in comparison to those (“Daniel der Zauberer”, “From Justin to Kelly”, “Popstar”), “In The Mix” pulls this off pretty well. The problems with “In The Mix” are almost entirely compartmentalized to the writing, which is shocking for being a movie centered around a non-actor. Usher, despite what I expected, was pretty serviceable in this movie. Compared to Justin Guarini or Aaron Carter, he’s Orson Welles.
More importantly, Usher seems to actually have chemistry with his co-lead Emmanuelle Chriqui, and both of them seem to be enjoying themselves. I think the greatest weakness of any of these celebrity vehicle movies is a lack of connection between the actors, which can make a huge difference in how watchable and believable the movie is on the whole. Usher manages to pull this off, and despite the poor quality of the movie overall, deserves credit for that.
I’ve noticed that a lot of folks direct their ire about this movie towards Usher, but not typically because of his performance. More often than not, I’ve seen complaints that he didn’t take responsibility as one of the film’s Executive Producers to ensure the ultimate quality of the project. I have a bit of a problem with this complaint. First off, the director is the one responsible for the project as a whole. When it comes down to it, the role of Executive Producer is left intentionally vague: it can mean a lot of different things on different productions. As I understand it, Usher was given that credit primarily due to his vested interest in the product as its public face. Just because he holds an Exec. Producer title doesn’t mean he is responsible for the quality of the film: producers are far more likely to be responsible for the fundraising and the marketing of the flick than anything else. Also, Usher isn’t an experienced movie maker, so how exactly would he have spotted a problem during development if he didn’t know what to look for? It may not have been wise to give him a producer nod, but even that falls back to being the director’s fault. From what I can tell, at worse Usher was complicit in the failure of the movie. At best, he did his damnedest to make it better, and failed to single handedly save the movie.
The accessory cast of “In The Mix” is, appropriately, a mixed bag. The poor dialogue and writing in general anchor the whole product down, but a few folks still deliver half decent performances. It is always nice to see a bunch of character actors like Robert Costanzo and Chazz Palminteri doing their mobster thing, but the grating comic relief performance by Kevin Hart leaves a whole lot to be desired (like, for instance, the sweet embrace of death).
“In The Mix” is a film teetering on falling out of the IMDb Bottom 100, and for good reason. It is a movie that is just “good” enough to not be entertainingly bad, which puts it unfortunately into the range of forgettable mediocrity. There isn’t anything outlandishly bad enough about it for me to recommend watching through the whole thing, but it serves as an interesting side-by-side comparison with the other celebrity-driven IMDb Bottom 100 features I mentioned here.
Ulli Lommel is one of those rare filmmakers who seems to be able to do no right. I honestly can’t think of any other filmmaker who so thoroughly embodies the legendary incompetence of Ed Wood for today’s film world. Some time ago, I covered his film “Zombie Nation”. As bad as that film is, it is a masterpiece in comparison to Lommel’s infamous part-documentary, part-fever dream known as “Daniel – der Zauberer”, which is widely considered to be the worst German movie of all time.
“Daniel der Zauberer” is a thoroughly fictionalized tale centering around the inexplicable German pop sensation Daniel Kublbock, who gained notoriety after winning Germany’s equivalent of American Idol. Speaking of which, this movie makes “From Justin to Kelly” look like a narrative masterpiece and in-depth character study.
In the world of “der Zauberer”, Daniel Kublbock is not just a pop star, but is also a wizard in training under the tutelage of his long-deceased grandfather (played by Lommel himself). In addition, he is apparently such a divisive figure in German society that a number of teenagers feel so much ire for him and his music that they wish to see him die. A good deal of the plot centers around a couple of these disgruntled youths attempting to assassinate Daniel, and that is unbelievably one of the less ludicrous aspects of the movie. Daniel ultimately wins over his would-be assassins and all of his other passionate detractors with his positive energy and friendliness by the time the movie ends, which is particularly notable given how painfully awkward Daniel is in front of a camera. Frankly, Daniel wouldn’t be able to win over a puppy with his charm and charisma.
For “Daniel – der Zauberer”, the devil is definitely in the details. All of the things that are typically invisible in well-crafted movies stand out like swollen thumbs here. The cinematography is on par with an amateur home video, the editing and sound are painfully distracting, and one continuity error is even so blatant that there is a half-hearted attempt to write it into the movie (Ulli Lommel’s character has a disappearing and reappearing arm).
The writing is really unfocused and vague throughout the movie, and fails to establish important elements to the story for the audience: most notably, it is not made absolutely clear that Daniel is a wizard in training until the last act, and his relation to Ulli Lommel’s character isn’t covered until the film’s conclusion. The dialogue isn’t much better, but it is hard to tell whether the writing or the acting is more to blame for what ultimately makes it on screen. Either way, the result is nothing short of abysmal.
There are a number of directorial decisions in this movie that truly boggle my mind. In a number of scenes, archival footage from various reality show appearances by Daniel are spliced in for seemingly no reason at all. I can understand the extensive use of concert footage in the movie given it more or less ties into the character, but the reality show clips just don’t make any sense at all. One of these sequences takes place while Daniel is having a nightmare where a mysterious man slowly approaches Daniel with a knife while he is sleeping. During the sequence, clips of Daniel on a German version of “Fear Factor” are cut in seemingly at random. Without provocation, the screen flashes to Daniel covered in bugs on what is clearly a reality show setup. In a more baffling sequence, footage is shown of Daniel playing with a couple of baby tigers, intercut with him…not really doing anything at all. He is just kind of standing around.
I am on the fence about whether I can recommend “Daniel – der Zauberer”. Part of me wants to say that this is a movie so incompetently made that it has to be seen to be believed. At this point, even Daniel Kublbock has admitted that it is truly awful, and that has to mean something from someone whose career is built on spreading positive energy. However, it is also a pretty boring experience to sit through, and given it didn’t get a release in English, the necessity of digging up the fan-made subtitles means that you have to go a bit out of your way to watch it. If you have a handy copy, give it a watch. I would just say do it with the caveat that it isn’t going to be a fun experience. This isn’t a movie for a group of people to watch and enjoy ironically, it is a movie that must be suffered individually, like a ritual.
Continuing with the “15 Days of Bad Christmas Movies”, today’s entry is on the 1996 Hulk Hogan vehicle “Santa With Muscles”. Get ready for some Santamania!
“Santa With Muscles” is one of a handful of attempts to turn Hulk Hogan into a legitimate crossover star. After his performance in “Rocky III”, Hulk starred in a string of unsuccessful movies. Much can be said of his films like “No Holds Barred” and “Suburban Commando”, but his movie career was undoubtedly more successful than his brief music career, which consisted of one hilarious album entitled “Hulk Rules”. I suggest looking it up on YouTube, it is pretty laughable.
The plot of Santa With Muscles centers around the egomaniac health mogul and millionaire Blake Thorne (played by Hulk Hogan), who, after becoming severely concussed during a run-in with police, wakes up believing himself to be Santa Claus. This leads to Thorne becoming a vigilante orphan advocate in his local community, all while a con man pretending to be his elf (Don Stark) tries to prevent him from re-discovering his identity as part of an elaborate attempt at bank fraud.
Another plot surfaces when a it is revealed that a local eccentric health-obsessive and germophobe (Ed Begley, Jr) is terrorizing an orphanage via his super-powered minions (their powers, of course, are not explained). Their actions prompt Thorne to repeatedly intervene on behalf of the orphanage, gaining him minor celebrity status as a peace-keeper along the way.
Among the orphanage residents is the now famous actress Mila Kunis, in one of her earliest film roles. Interestingly enough, co-star Don Stark would later play her father for many years on the hit sitcom “That 70’s Show”.The sleeveless Santa suit that Hogan wears for much of the movie is designed in-story by Mila Kunis’s character, Sarah. When asked about the design, she claims that it was inspired by a comic book, specifically “Mega Man #96”. Mega Man is a well known video game hero and one of the franchise faces of Capcom. While he has had a couple of comic book runs, none have made it to #98, and the blue robotic boy does not much resemble Santa Claus, nor does he use a utility belt or wear a red suit. That said, his creator, Dr Light, bears a significant similarity to the jolly saint nick. But, I’m willing to bet that there isn’t a real connection there.
The executive producer of “Santa With Muscles” is none other than Jordan Belfourt, a man now famous as “The Wolf of Wall Street”. Belfourt served as Executive Producer of six movies in 1996, including “Santa with Muscles” and another Hulk Hogan family feature called “Secret Agent Club”. Belfourt also became good friends with notorious B-movie director David DeCoteau during this brief fling with the movie business. DeCoteau later loosely adapted Belfourt’s tales from Wall Street into a homoerotic werewolf movie called “The Wolves of Wall Street”, a flick that predated Scorcese’s famous work by a solid decade.
At the beginning of “Santa With Muscles”, Hulk Hogan is playing a character clearly based heavily on himself, but he is inexplicably a complete dick to everyone around him. Why might that be? Well, this is more justified than you might think: it isn’t a Dickensian redemption tale for the sake of Christmas alone.
In July of 1996, Hulk Hogan made the shocking move to turn heel for the first time in his career: a term used to signify a “villain” in the pro wrestling community. Ironically, this turn to the dark side coincided with his adoption of the nickname “Hollywood”: I’m guessing he had higher aspirations for his film career than “3 Ninjas: High Noon at Mega Mountain”. In any case Hulk continued on as a consistent villain in the WCW wrestling league for a number of years after this. The November 1996 release of “Santa With Muscles” places it in the midst of Hulk’s sinister turn, so it makes sense that he plays a callous and cold character as the story unfolds.
According to IMDb’s trivia section, the original author’s draft of “Santa with Muscles” was changed so extensively that he sued to have his name taken off of the film. I haven’t found any information to independently substantiate the rumor, but I certainly wouldn’t be shocked if this were true. The three credited writers on the film include one person with no other credits of any kind, a fellow who is only credited as an assortment of extras (he played a water slide attendant in “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure”, apparently), and another person with a handful of credits solely as a casting assistant. It isn’t exactly a writing dream team.
“Santa With Muscles” director John Murlowski was also responsible for the other 1996 Hulk Hogan movie, “Secret Agent Club”. However, he is probably best known for helming the film “Cop Dog”: a kid’s movie in which the ghost of a dead dog possessed by a fallen cop leads a young child on a quest for revenge. It is a very strange film.
Among the accessory cast of “Santa With Muscles” are Clint Howard, who is the brother of famed director Ron Howard (and a stalwart B-movie character actor in his own right). He has featured in movies such as “The Ice Cream Man” and “Evilspeak”, not to mention a veritable drove of Uwe Boll movies. Also appearing is Garret Morris, best known as an inaugural cast member of NBC’s beloved comedy sketch program Saturday Night Live.
The climax of “Santa With Muscles” sees Hulk Hogan doing battle with Ed Begley Jr (clad, as always, in a hazmat suit) in an expansive cave below the orphanage. It is revealed that the building sits atop a mine filled with valuable explosive crystals, which is why Begley had been trying to expel the orphans. It is also inexplicably revealed that both men were raised in the orphanage as children, and at one point were best friends. In light of these bizarre and lazy revelations, the two men have a sword fight with the highly explosive crystals, which somehow doesn’t blow them both up into tiny meat chunks. The aftermath of the battle does ultimately see the orphanage explode, after which Thorne opens his mansion up as a new location for the children, completing his redemption.
On to the plotopsy of the film: what led to the failure of “Santa With Muscles”?
First off, it is just too damn cartoon-y. The villains have ridiculous unexplained superpowers, and chew their way through scenery throughout the film. Ed Begley Jr’s lead villain is played as such an over the top germophobe that the trees in front of his house are shown covered in plastic. That kind of thinking makes my brain want to implode.
Of course, centering a movie around Hulk Hogan isn’t such a great idea either. He may be a good showman, but he is a horrendous actor. Watching him stumble through lines in this movie is embarrassing, particularly during an interview sequence where he is supposed to be acting nervous. It takes an unfathomable void of talent to not be able to appear nervous and confused. Last but certainly not least, this script is absolutely abysmal. The plot is baffling and poorly paced, and the dialogue is awkward and stilted throughout the film. I am kind of curious what the original draft looked like, and how it managed to be mutated into the state that it ended up in.
All in all, I absolutely recommend giving Santa With Muscles a watch if you can find a copy of it. It is definitely a movie you have to see to believe, and it may be the worst entry in Hulk Hogan’s abysmal filmography. The pacing slows down significantly here and there, but there are generally enough confusing and outlandish moments to keep your eyebrows cocked and your jaw on the floor through the entire run time.
That’s all for today’s (Plot)opsy Podcast here at the Misan[trope]y Movie Blog! I recommend checking out the rest of the “15 Days of Bad Christmas Movies”. Here’s what you will find this week:
So, make sure to check in with all of those good folks as part of the “15 Days of Bad Christmas Movies”! Also, make sure to check back here next week for the next (Plot)opsy Podcast on the infamous 1959 Mexican Christmas movie: “Santa Claus”
For those who haven’t heard yet, Kirk Cameron’s new movie “Saving Christmas” recently topped the IMDb’s Bottom 100 list. This came about just after Kirk Cameron attempted to inflate his movie’s score on Rotten Tomatoes by calling on his fan base to give his movie a “fresh” rating. Unfortunately for Cameron, that isn’t how the review aggregation site works. Even more unfortunately for Cameron, the internet doesn’t take too kindly to those sorts of shenanigans, nor does it have much patience for vapid evangelism.
Thus, quick as a flash, all of the democratic online ratings for “Saving Christmas” (including the audience score on “Rotten Tomatoes” and the IMDb user score) tanked into oblivion. Kirk Cameron, being the Kirk Cameron that he is, believes that this is a result of a grand atheist conspiracy. Well, let us aim to get down to the truth of the matter then, shall we?
Outside of the internet’s backlash to Cameron’s Rotten Tomatoes shenanigans, there are plenty of other reasons that “Saving Christmas” has been so poorly received. And, believe it or not, I don’t think the backlash is universally from internet atheists and disgruntled troll-folk. I honestly believe that Kirk Cameron managed to split his evangelical base with the message of “Saving Christmas”.
When it comes down to it, “Saving Christmas” isn’t about the mythical “War on Christmas” (as it was advertised): it is a movie aimed at evangelical, conservative Christians who either do not loudly celebrate Christmas, or publicly condemn common Christmas practices due to pagan roots or ties to sinful behavior. The very structure of the movie is laid out as a dialogue between Cameron and his fictitious brother-in-law (and fellow evangelical) Christian, who acts as the straw man of these sorts of Christmas detractors. Cameron, over the course of the movie, walks Christian through his complaints about the materialism of modern Christmas and the Pagan roots of many holiday traditions. Even though Cameron’s arguments for these practices being complimentary with Christianity are generally poorly thought out, it is clear that he is attempting to call out and persuade his fellow evangelicals to come around to his way of thinking. This is an attack movie on a sub-population of his own people.
This may be a bit obvious, but another big part of the reason that “Saving Christmas” has been so poorly received has nothing to do with the film itself, but is rather just a reaction to the fact that Kirk Cameron has his name plastered all over it. Cameron suffers from something that I’ve started calling the “Uwe Boll Effect”, in which the poor behavior and unpopularity of a key player in a film leads to the poor reception of their work, regardless of the work’s actual quality.
These days, Cameron only registers on the public’s radar when he is saying something wildly homophobic, blatantly misogynistic, or is puppeting some sort of conservative agenda, and none of those things win you popularity points on the internet. Even without his attempt to inflate the movie’s scores, “Saving Christmas” would have registered abysmal scores on IMDb for this reason alone. It probably wouldn’t have been bad enough to hit the Bottom 100, but the fact that Cameron’s name is on the film meant that it wasn’t going to get anything over a 5.0 out of 10 (generous), and that is regardless of the actual quality of the movie.
Before I get on to talking about the actual film, I want to clearly address something: “Saving Christmas” is in no way the worst movie of all time. The IMDb rankings and the Rotten Tomatoes audience score are both living, democratic scores, which means that they fluctuate in accordance with public opinion. The phenomenally low scores for “Saving Christmas” on these mediums should not be read to mean “this is the worst movie of all time”, but rather as “this is perceived by the public right now to be the worst movie of all time”. I see people misread these rankings all the time (particularly the IMDb). The user score is literally a popularity contest, not an intelligently crafted tome. I don’t mean to say that in a detracting manner: it is actually an interesting and valuable ranking that acts as a barometer of current popular opinion, which is frankly interesting as fuck. Both the Rotten Tomatoes audience score and the IMDb user score are fascinating numbers, but they need to be appreciated for what they actually represent. I can guarantee you that there is not a critic in the world who would cite “Saving Christmas” as being objectively worse as a film than “Monster-A-Go-Go”, and that should tell you all you need to know about the objective accuracy of the IMDb Bottom 100. Now, on to the movie.
“Saving Christmas” is, of course, quite bad. Most of the issues come from poor structure and pacing, which I believe are side effects of attempts to pad out the final run time of the flick. There is an extended, unnecessary dance sequence towards the end of the movie that doesn’t serve much of a purpose besides burning time, and there is a scene early on with no plot significance in which two peripheral character have a conversation almost entirely via ADR (automated dialogue replacement, voiceover done after the fact), meaning that it is entirely possible that the scene was not actually written until after it was filmed. I think these two sequences wound up being as long as they were specifically to pad the run time, which subsequently slowed down the pace of the movie. Even the story structure itself makes the movie feel longer: it is never clear as the dialogue between Cameron and Christian progresses where the movie is in the run time. Most linear plots provide a sort of shorthand for audiences: for instance, you generally have an idea of when the second act is wrapping up, just due to how the story is progressing on screen. In “Saving Christmas”, which lacks a traditional plot, the audience isn’t given any of these usual landmarks, so you never quite know where you are in the movie. The effect of this is that the movie feels longer than it actually is, which is generally something you don’t want to happen. This isn’t necessarily going to result in a bad movie (see: “Pulp Fiction” and “Reservoir Dogs”), but it doesn’t do a film any favors if the audience isn’t sufficiently engaged.
I have mentioned a little bit about the writing already, specifically the fact that it is mostly done as a dialogue between two characters. While the contents of Kirk Cameron’s lines are basically word salad, those scenes aren’t nearly as poorly written as the ones that aren’t specifically between the two lead characters. When not focused on Cameron and Christian, this movie goes off the rails in the writing department. Kirk Cameron provides voice-over in nearly every scene, which is something that would be grating in an otherwise good movie with a better actor doing the readings. But here, given that all of the voice-over is done by Kirk Cameron, delivered in a typical preacher’s cadence, and has the content of a thrown-together Sunday school class, you honestly feel like you are trapped in a visual companion to a Christmas sermon. Worse yet, the little exposure the audience gets to the accessory cast away from Cameron is plagued with lazy stereotypes and banal, unnecessary, and seemingly improvised dialogue.
The acting in “Saving Christmas” is kind of difficult to cover. Kirk Cameron is clearly comfortable in his role, because he is absolutely in his element in this movie. The whole world of the movie does seem to bend and contour around him, almost like he is Neo in “The Matrix”, but I feel like that is more of a writing issue than an acting one. He does come off as incredibly smug, but I can’t really consider that a weakness of his performance: his role (and the movie) is smug by design. Writer/director Darren Doane is serviceable enough as Christian, though he spouts some horribly written lines of attempted comedic dialogue, and is portraying one of the least believable / most malleable characters I’ve ever seen on screen. Perhaps it speaks to his credit as an actor that the character still seems genuine despite all of that?
Beyond those two leads, the only other notable that stood out to me was the guy who plays Santa Claus, who has a great menacing look to him, but his line-reads were pretty miserable once he opened his mouth. As for the rest of the cast, the movie doesn’t spend enough time with most of them for me to make judgements either way: outside of the token black stereotype character, they are basically the cardboard cutouts from “Home Alone” that exist solely to create the illusion of a Christmas party.
So, would I recommend “Saving Christmas?” Not particularly. Unless you are really into counter-apologetics and find Kirk Cameron’s usual bad arguments entertaining in general, there isn’t a whole lot of fun to have here. Alternatively, if you are particularly fond of watching bad movies for the sake of learning how films go wrong, there is some value to sitting through this. The structure is mind-boggling, and there are a number of sequences that are shockingly incompetent enough for a film buff to appreciate. That said, there are a handful of decent shots in the movie, so it isn’t absolutely horrible top to bottom. The straw man and stereotype-laden writing are generally just tiresome, and don’t produce any entertainment value, so the film just winds up being a dull experience when it comes down to it.
However, I definitely recommend watching this hilarious re-cut of the “Saving Christmas” trailer. Stick with it until the end, you won’t regret it:
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