By Julian Arwen
The holiday season approaches. It is time to come together (or as best as we can under the strain of the pandemic) and embrace peace on earth and goodwill towards all mankind. Or you can do what controversial actor Mel Gibson does and star in a bizarre holiday thriller that is so boring and sapped of joy, holiday feelings or any entertainment, you’ll be forgiven for expecting Krampus to come to visit him for starring in it. The best you can say about “Fatman” is its bizarre premise is at least entertaining.
In this film, Santa or “Chris Cringle,” played by Mel Gibson, is disgruntled and jaded. Instead of just simply making the toys magically, Chris runs a toy-making business. He and Mrs. Cringle, played by Marianne Jean-Baptiste, are facing hard times, resulting in them making a deal with the United States military to produce jetfighter parts to get by. However, an assassin portrayed by Walton Goggins is hired by a young spoiled rich boy to kill Chris for sending him a lump of coal instead of a Christmas gift (How this child has not received a lump of coal before, I do not know.) These two men will come face to face, in a battle for Christmas itself… after spending nearly all of the movie’s run time on the setup and boring, monotonous padding.
Fatman is just bizarre, a weird hodgepodge of cynicism and anger. Santa is a disgruntled old man who might have magic to help deliver his toys – there are certainly elves in the film – but the movie is committed to the realism that it is just bare and depressing. He is also decidedly unjolly, due to kids being not just bad, but sadistic, shooting at his sled with a deer rifle on Christmas day. It’s so strangely cruel and nonsensical. Though it’s not as cruel as Santa Claus threatening a child, which is possibly the most un-Santa thing you could do. If it is part of the “joke,” I certainly did not find any of this funny or entertaining in any measure. Rather, it feels like a crazy man impersonating Santa (which is honestly not far from the truth.
Perhaps this has to do with the fact that this movie takes most of its run time building to this “climactic” gunfight between Santa Claus and the rich child’s personal assassin, rather than actually doing anything of substance. It is also the only action piece in the film. Otherwise, Chris spends a good chunk of time ranting about the hardships of Christmas, or just going about his day along with his elves and wife. The Christmas spirit exists only in superficial elements. The most we get are the elves, which seem to clash with the gritty tone of the movie as they eat sugary diets to stay youthful. In fact, this movie mostly takes place after Christmas, so is it really a holiday movie at all?
Fatman is a film where its only entertaining quality is its weird premise alone. It feels like it was written for an Adam Sandler comedy that got forced to be something more “gritty,” which just doesn’t match at all with this premise. As a comedy, it’s unfunny. As a thriller, it lacks thrills. As an action movie, it has only one slightly entertaining action sequence. As a Christmas movie, it has hardly any holiday charm or spirit. That is what’s most insulting of all: Fatman is an amusing concept that’s not given the heart, fun and/or hilarity it deserves.