Santa with Muscles (1996) (part 9 of 11)

We fade back in and there’s Hulk back at home, sleeping in his own bed. There’s the expected “Hulk is relieved it was all a dream” moment, followed by the “pulls back the covers on his Santa suit to see it wasn’t a dream” moment. There’s an even more predictable shot of the exterior of his mansion as his yells of surprise echo through the air.

Then Butler Chas appears with a tray and a glass of an unknown, murky beverage. Perhaps Metamucil, perhaps untreated sewage. You never know. Chas sprays the room with air freshener and says a “waste disposal engineer” recognized Hulk and kindly brought him back home. So, let’s see, the guy is so famous that even garbage men recognize him, and yet the TV reporter who did a live interview with him didn’t. Whatever.

Hulk reveals that he believed he was Santa Claus, which is something that, personally, I’d try to keep to myself. He suddenly remembers everything at the orphanage and attempts to call Saavik.

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Unfortunately for the Hulkster, Frost’s goons are gathered around a telephone pole and they’ve hacked into the orphanage phone line. They redirect the call to Frost’s estate, where Dr. Blight holds his tape recorder to the phone and plays that recording of Saavik yelling at him.

Hulk hears Saavik’s voice yell that he’s “full of it”, and then she tells him to “just leave us alone! Why don’t you just disappear forever?” The line goes dead. Hulk sad.

Meanwhile, Frost refers to Hulk as “Santa Clown” and says that now that he’s out of the picture, they can begin “taking the orphanage… now!” He goes to his map and dramatically draws a black X on Orphanage Square, and we fade out once again.

Fade in on a TV set showing Helen Chu, the way too chipper Latina-Asian anchorwoman, as she reports on the mysterious disappearance of this “Santa with muscles”. She seems way, way too happy about it all, especially considering the guy was just some homeless weirdo. I mean, for all she knows, he might have overdosed in an alley or gotten mugged and beaten to death or something.

Anyway, Taylor shuts off the TV. Yep, just one more thing for him to be bitter about. It looks like Jackie is bitter, too, because she yells, “There’s no such thing as Santa!” But, I guess, there is such a thing as an elf, because Lenny is still hanging out at the orphanage. That’s actually kind of weird, isn’t it? Doesn’t Lenny have, you know, a family or a home or something to go to?

Saavik sees Elizabeth eagerly looking out the window for any trace of her friend Santa. She tries to cheer the girl up, and strangely uses a Santa Claus tree ornament [!] to do it. Nevertheless, it seems to work, and the two walk off. Meanwhile, in the kitchen, Lenny is so despondent that he can’t eat his huge salami sandwich or drink his prominently placed box of Minute Maid orange juice.

Saavik and Elizabeth are about to enter the kitchen, but for some reason, Elizabeth turns and gasps. Moments later, a huge explosion blows off the front doors of the orphanage. Okay, is Elizabeth psychic too, just like Hulk?

Anyway, this explosion turns out to be the work of Ms. Watt. Sure, electricity often works like high powered explosives. Or so I was taught in science class. By the way, I took the short bus to school.

Ms. Watt’s wearing a gas mask, and in comes Mr. Vial in a chemical suit, spraying the whole place. Close behind him are Dr. Blight and two random white-coated henchmen carrying T-squares.

Dr. Blight sprays up the place some more as Taylor invokes the name of Santa Claus as a physical threat. Not really the most intimidating thing I’ve ever heard, to be honest. Blight sprays directly at Taylor, but unfortunately it’s not sarin gas, but rather disinfectant, because he announces the place has been “sterilized”. If you ask me, everyone involved with this movie should have been sterilized.

Ed Begley Jr. finally makes his grand entrance, wearing his own chemical suit. He tells his men to grab Saavik, Lenny and the kids and bring them down into the catacombs. Once there, Begley reveals that what he’s after is what’s in the vault, which is the same thing that’s underneath the whole neighborhood. Whoa! What a twist! Begley, you gotta be shitting me!

Saavik says he can take what’s in the vault and let the kids go, but Begley insists he needs them to do his mining [!]. To enhance the supposed “comic effect” of this statement, Mr. Flint puts a miner’s helmet on Taylor. Yeah, you think you’re bitter now, kid? Let’s see what a little child labor, black lung, and trench foot can do to you.

Santa with Muscles (1996) (part 9 of 11)

“Kids, your only chance is to tunnel your way out of this movie!”

Soon, all the kids are wearing mining helmets and holding pick axes. Begley puts on a fake Nice Guy act and tries to persuade the kids to kindly open the vault, but Jackie gives him a sarcastic, typically Jackie response. Begley offers them plum pudding, but they all make retching noises. Begley, finally out of options at this point (in both this movie and his film career) just tells his henchmen to prepare the kids for mining.

Lenny, in a plan that perhaps wasn’t thought out too well, lunges forward and gets a face full of cartoon electric bolts from Ms. Watt. Once he recovers from this attack (which takes all of about 0.08 seconds), Begley uses the opportunity to rat Lenny out and thank him for supposedly helping them get in. I guess we’re supposed to be outraged that Lenny was in cahoots with Frost, but, frankly, I don’t see it. What did Lenny supposedly do to help them break in? Didn’t they basically just blow the doors off to get inside?

Sadly, this plot thread might have actually turned out coherent, especially if it had been Lenny who started up the animatronic Santa that pushed Hulk out of the bell tower. I mean, Lenny had to help out Frost some kind of way, and there never was an explanation for why Animatronic Santa started up in the first place. But I guess that just would have made too much sense.

Anyway, the kids are predictably aghast, with one of them calling Lenny “Benedict Arnold”. Sort of an obscure reference for an eight year old, don’t you think? Begley has everyone led away while Mr. Flint goes to work on the vault door hinges. He uses a strange tool to do this, something like a big gun with a screwdriver head on it. He then just sort of holds it next to the door and sparks appear from somewhere.

Meanwhile at Hulk Manor, Sad Hulk is trying to eat a bowl of gray mush but not getting too excited about it. Chef Pierre comes running up behind him, once again screaming and wielding his meat tenderizer, but Hulk pays no attention to him. Pierre, obviously suffering from battered servant’s syndrome, sadly tells the chauffeur and butler, “I never seen my boss like this! He loves to hit me!”

Hulk gets a call on his cell phone, and it’s Lenny in the orphanage kitchen asking for help. For some reason, we get a long tracking shot across the kitchen during the call. I’m not saying this was done specifically to show off large cans of Folgers, Crisco, and a jar of Jif, but I have my suspicions. Suddenly, Dr. Blight grabs the phone away from Lenny and puts a deadly T-square to his throat.

Blight gets on the phone and mouths off to Hulk for a while, so Hulk asks Dr. Blight to “remind me to introduce you to my two little friends: Leftie and rightie!” Oh, boy. There’s so many dirty jokes I can wring out of that comment, it’s not even funny. But obviously, Hulk is actually referring to the schism between the hemispheres of the brain here, and how the left side, or “leftie” as he calls it, is the seat of logic, whereas “rightie” is responsible for creativity and artistic expression.

Oh, come on! He’s talking about his 24-inch pythons, brother! Whatcha gonna do? WHATCHA GONNA DO?

Blight’s not intimidated, however, telling Hulk to stay away or he’ll hurt his friends. Lenny struggles against Blight’s henchman, a guy who’s also in a white lab coat and holding a T-square. Wrestling fans will undoubtedly recognize this henchman as none other than Ed Leslie, AKA Brutus “The Beefcake” Barber, another early WWF personality who more or less rode on Hulk’s coattails for his entire career.

Now, I think it’s fair to say that Ed is pretty much a white guy, but ridiculously, they’ve given him a Fu Manchu mustache and put his hair into a little sumo-bun to make him look Asian [!!]. Hey, they satisfied their Asian hiring quota with that reporter. What more do you want?

Santa with Muscles (1996) (part 9 of 11)

And I bet Lenny’s not even a real elf, either!

Blight hangs up, and on the other end, Hulk gets so angry that he crushes his cell phone with his bare hands [!]. He tells his eager servants they now have a “mission”.

After a pointless shot of Lenny getting tossed out of the orphanage by Ed Leslie, AKA Fu Whitemanchu, it’s back to Hulk inspecting his servants like they’re his troops. Once this unfunny business is done, they all pile into his Hummer. Butler Chas hands Hulk his Santa hat, which Hulk happily puts on before pulling off.

Back at the orphanage, Mr. Flint is still working on the vault door, but he tells Fu Whitemanchu that he’ll bust through in five minutes. Fu Whitemanchu does the “hai!” and bows before heading out. Seriously, could they not find an Asian actor with enough self-loathing to appear in this movie? Hmm. I think I just answered my own question.

Santa with Muscles (1996) (part 9 of 11)

“Can you hear me now, brother? Good!”

Anyway, we come back to the “North Pole – 5 miles” sign, and guess who’s parked behind it? Yep, it’s our old friend Clint Howard. Poor guy. I bet he thought he was done humiliating himself after his first scene.

He’s doing another lame bit, this time pacing outside his car and practicing what he’s going to say the next time he pulls over a speeder. There’s nothing remotely amusing about this routine, not even when Clint uses the term “turkey breath”. I swear, I’ve never felt more sorry for the man, and this is coming from someone who saw him in Street Corner Justice.

Anyway, Hulk’s Hummer roars past. Clint yells, “The terrorists!” and the chase is on yet again. Soon, he’s joined by the only other two cop cars that the filmmakers could afford. Hulk sees them in his rearview mirror, but instead of just pulling over and explaining that kids are being held hostage in an orphanage, he decides to “handle it Blake’s way!” Because we all saw how well that worked the first time, right?

Hulk asks Chef Pierre for the “first course”, so he and the chauffeur head to the back of the jeep with bottles of “Blake’s Way Salad Oil”, which they pour in the street. This creates an oil slick, leading to a cop car predictably fishtailing when Hulk rounds a curve. Hmm. Salad oil as a defensive weapon to elude police. I’ll have to remember that.

Santa with Muscles (1996) (part 9 of 11)

When you use Blake’s Way Salad Dressing in your high-speed pursuits, we’ll donate five cents to cancer research for every cop you evade!

Next up are canisters of protein powder, which do the dastardly task of… um, creating a big cloud of protein powder. This prompts Clint Howard to yell, “I was in Desert Storm, you know! I’m bad! I’m a heartbreakerrrr! I’m a troublemakerrrr!”

Despite these heartbreaking and troublemaking credentials, the Protein Powder Cloud causes Clint to lose control and his car spins out. And, as most law enforcement officers tend to do when they spin out, Clint takes his hands off the wheel so he can cover his face with his arms [!]. I’m not sure why he bothered, because I doubt that slamming into a windshield at high speed would make him much uglier. Not to knock the guy, but frankly, Clint makes Steve Buscemi look like People Magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive.

Multi-Part Article: Santa with Muscles (1996)

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