RiffTrax Live! Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny (2015)
2002: Our fearless leader Dr. Winston O’Boogie subjects himself to the amazingly awful kiddie matinee flick Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny in the name of comedy. Sanity was lost, possible early onset carpal tunnel syndrome was contracted, and the term “butterface” plopped into the site’s general lexicon.
2015: It’s thirteen years later. I paid full ticket price ($12.50? Well, at least it wasn’t the Arclight theater with their pompous windbag glorified safety lecture bullshit before the screening), and the only thing keeping me from running through the streets gibbering like a mad lunatic crazed by confusion were the guys from RiffTrax.
Now for those of you new to the concept, I will refer you to the other RiffTrax Live! articles on the site for a little background, specifically Winston’s reviews of RiffTrax Live! Sharknado and RiffTrax Live! Plan 9 from Outer Space.
Yes, we here at Ye Olde Agony Booth are tackling another live RiffTrax event, and boy oh boy, did they pick a stinker to usher in the Christmas season. Even by the standards of bad kiddie matinee films, this one is bad. Hell, you can narrow it down to bad kiddie matinee films made specifically for crappy theme parks that are one unfortunate go-kart mishap away from being shut down, and it still comes in at the bottom of the barrel!
That’s saying a lot when you consider that a goodly chunk of programming aimed at kids (film, TV, etc.) seems to be made with the ethos “Let’s see how bad we can scar the little bastards and make their parents wonder if that one drug trip in college they had is coming back up on them!” Speaking from personal experience, I once walked in on my nieces watching an episode of Yo Gabba Gabba! and that night I was visited in my sleep by Satan. Actually, that might just have been because of the chili cheese fries I’d eaten with dinner. I don’t go to that particular restaurant any more.
Never mind. Back to real terror.
While readers may be familiar with the film, there’s a little twist here. Whereas Winston subjected himself to a bad Santa wraparound with a butter(face)y, greasy Thumbelina fever dream in the center, I and all others who viewed this got the Santa stuff with a version of Jack and the Beanstalk from the same director.
Needless to say, it fails to match the grandeur of that time Elmer Fudd played the giant in a vain, desperate attempt to avoid typecasting. Poor bastard. Actually, given the Luciano Pavarotti-looking slob we do get, it makes Elmer’s turn look like Daniel Day-Lewis in pretty much everything he’s ever done.
The guy who plays the giant, Renato Boracherro, goes through the whole thing with a defeated look of disinterest on his face, while singing in a way that screams out, “I studied acting and I’m stuck doing shitty children’s theater pieces!” As a guy who did high school drama, I can relate. He looks like some guy who has just been cast in Hamlet… as Yorick.
Before we get the main feature, we are blessed [?] with three Christmas-themed shorts of varying levels of mind-altering insanity. First off, the most “normal” of the trio, a fuzzy bit of cheese from the 1950s called “Santa Claus’ Story”, which shows two overacting kids being bored to tears—uh, I mean being reassured that the magic of Santa is real by old St. Nick himself when he comes down the chimney to deliver presents to the cherubic little shits.
Somehow, the proof of his magic involves stock footage of chimps being made up, building a house, and being forced to wear Santa outfits. One can only imagine the horrible maimings that went into the making of this footage.
Next up is a short called “Custard the Dragon”. Based on a poem by Ogden Nash (by the content, I would guess he was heavily into the mushrooms at the time), it’s a rather unsettling look at what happens when a film crew gets their young children together, puts them in animal costumes (one of which is the titular dragon), and has them fart around until a stagehand dressed as a pirate shows up and is killed and eaten offstage by the dragon.
I have no idea what this has to with Christmas, unless there’s some sort of pagan thing from the early origins of the holiday involving pirates and the eating of the first random stranger who happens to piss you off. All things being equal, that’s generally better than listening to your uncle get plastered and start yelling at your cousins. Again.
Last up is one from K. Gordon Murray called “Santa’s Enchanted Village”. Shot at several of the old Santa’s Village theme parks (never went to one as a kid, and based on what I saw here, I’m pretty sure I made the right call), it takes several characters from random Murray productions, along with some kids dressed like Peter Pan (looking about as happy to be there as most guys are when the doctor asks them to bend over and cough, I might add), and puts them in a vignette about rushing to make the big December 25th deadline.
It’s not often you see the conflicts between middle management and their employees played out by Stinky the Skunk, a grouchy wolf with an ulcer, and the most upsetting version of Puss in Boots I’ve ever seen. And that includes the one where he’s played by Christopher Walken. No, really, this does exist. It was from Cannon Films, actually. To be fair, it’s not like they put him in crappy-looking cat makeup (just a mustache he probably grew himself), but still!
This takes us to our main event, and I would be an unconscionably unprofessional boob if I didn’t chip in my two cents about the whole goddamned movie.
The Jack and the Beanstalk stuff can be mentioned first, because I have the least to say about it. It’s not quite the mind fuck the Thumbelina story is, though it does have its moments. Jack is played by a gangly little twerp who looks like Greg Brady’s stunt double, and he acquires the beans from a smarmy-looking guy called Honest John who runs a used cow dealership.
Did I mention I paid $12.50 to see this?
Incidentally, while Honest John is dressed in what our valiant riffers refer to as Jiminy Cricket’s outfit, the rest of the cast (save for the giant and his wife) are dressed in your typically awful late ‘60s/early ‘70s attire that really makes me wonder if the sexual revolution was more of a dare to see who could wear the most hideous outfits and still get nookie.
The beanstalk grows, and after a long, long, long, long, long, long, long climbing sequence, we get to the giant, who looks like Pavarotti without the class and table manners, as well as his wife, who’s here just to bring him things. Jack first steals a goose that lays golden eggs, played by a really crappy-looking bird figurine wrapped in gold paper.
It turns out Jack’s dad had a magic harp too that was stolen by the giant (don’t ask me how this happened; I don’t do enough drugs to make a plausible case for anything that transpires here), and after he steals that, he’s chased by the giant, who he rather anticlimactically offs when he chops the beanstalk down.
It’s actually pretty lame, but the riffers do a fine job with it, having fun at the expense of the giant who tends to break into the same song whenever Jack is around (sounding about as menacing as a kitten), as well as the rather superfluous way Honest John stays in the story. I do like that the giant and his wife have furniture that’s actually too big for them. It’s like they made the props and then realized, “Oh crap, the guy we got for the giant isn’t big enough! Screw it; the kids won’t give a shit!”
That brings us to the Santa stuff. Now, I’ve seen epics on the big screen, ladies and germs. I’ve seen Star Wars; James Bond movies; Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz, and Lucy Liu in various cleavage exposing outfits (hey, don’t judge me! Yeah, Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle is a terrible piece of crap that’s an affront to action movies, T&A, and the genius of Farrah Fawcett, but it was a hot summer, I wanted some mindless eye candy, and that fit the bill. That being said, I do regret recommending it to fellow recapper Ryan Lohner afterwards. Sorry, dude. Like I said, it was a hot summer. My brain just overheated. Check out his Heavy Metal recap, folks. It’s good). But the Santa wraparound is the real thing that made me shell out twelve bucks and change.
The riffing on the wraparound is top-notch, with Santa taking a shellacking from the guys. The Ice Cream Bunny gets it pretty good too, though to be frank, it’s mostly horrified reactions from the guys. Granted, that’s a perfectly reasonable thing to do when faced with something that looks like the work of a deranged lunatic.
There are a few things about the wraparound that I dearly love, mainly the extended “how about this random farm animal” gag. I especially like the kid with the sheep, valiantly trying to keep it from running off. There are one or two moments where it looks like the poor girl is going to be dragged off by the sheep, which seems to want to get the hell out of here in the worst way.
At the end, there’s a shot of the kids running with their dog, and it’s clearly taking the two kids holding the pooch’s leash every ounce of strength they can muster to keep it from bolting off to freedom.
Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny is one of those special bad movies that just makes you wonder… Yeah, I’m gonna stick with that. Just wonder. I can’t even come up with something wistful and poetic, or crude and scatological for that matter. How the hell did even the least discerning of little kids sit through this thing? God in heaven, I can only imagine screenings of this (regardless of the version) ending in kids learning from their parents why it’s not okay to hit Mommy and Daddy after you see a crappy movie.
The Rifftrax Live experience is a thoroughly enjoyable one. The first showing of this was Dec. 3rd, and there was an encore presentation of it on Dec. 15th. If you missed out (and boy is that an understatement), I’m sure it’ll be available on the RiffTrax site soon.
There’s also an earlier riff of the film available (a cut-down version of the one Winston put himself through) that also has it unriffed. And the Santa’s Village short is available on the Christmas with RiffTrax: Santa’s Village of Madness DVD. Just don’t complain to us when the Ice Cream Bunny shows up in your dreams. We can’t clean out the urine stains of every set of sheets in the world, you know.
Happy holidays to all, and remember, Santa Claus is watching you!