1988’s Scrooged is a cheerfully dark and wild adaptation of Charles Dickens’ classic Christmas story (before it comes out at the end) that begins with a fake television commercial for a movie called The Night the Reindeer Died. The film teases a terrorist attack on Santa’s workshop with automatic weapons and elves in distress, and it only takes thirty-two years for someone to capitalize on the idea and bring the core concept to life. Fat man is a fun, strangely lovable, and action-packed delight.
It’s Christmas time and three people are about to clash with a violent holiday spirit. Billy (Chance Hurstfield) is a sneaky and spoiled rich kid with absent parents and too much cash available. When things don’t go his way, his first answer is to get a professional to do the dirty work. When he loses a school science project competition to a classmate, he hires a killer named Jonathan Miller (Walton Goggins, recognized only as a Skinny Man) to kidnap the girl so Billy can threaten her to admit she cheated. What if he gets coal on Christmas morning? He assigns Miller to find and kill Santa Claus (Mel Gibson).
Authors / directors Eshom Nelms & Ian Nelms Create an irresistible setup with Fatman, and the following movie keeps much of its promise. It’s a low key and modestly budgeted action / comedy that hits some very dark beats long before the killer and the US military unleash a hot head start in Santa’s workshop. Oh, didn’t I mention the military presence? This is another fun twist on the script regarding the idea of Santa Claus in modern times.
It seems that the arrears of world governments on Santa’s annual GDP spike are receding – fewer people are celebrating the magical elements of the holiday, more children are behaving like little pricks, making pot shots on Santa’s sleigh and just making coal under the tree – and Santa Claus is in dire need of income if he wants to keep the workshop going. He finds it in an offer from the US military to bring his elves to work to make control panels for spy planes, and the top-secret job calls for a military presence to reside alongside the elves. Not only does it work to make the vacation commercialization cynical, it also works to create more fodder for the upcoming shooting game. The interactions between Captain Jacobs (Robert Bockstael) and the elves reveal funny observations about their sugary diets, sleeping habits, and what it is that keeps Santa Claus young and healthy.
Goggins walks a fine line in Fatman as he manages to be both very funny and ruthlessly brutal on the way to his face with the fat man. He threatens to kill a little girl’s dog, kills USPS workers looking for Santa’s address, and doesn’t blink when he knocks down US soldiers standing in his way. Miller also holds onto his own grudges with Santa Claus when his abusive childhood made him a tough, vengeful man. “You never forget the smell of burning meat and menthols,” he tells a little boy, and Goggins sells anger with the blackest comedic edges.
However, it is Gibson who is the heart of the film, and while many will find it to be bullshit, it is inevitably true. His exterior looks gruff and unshaven, and our introduction to shooting cans with a pistol adds to the gross mystique, but the guy is a softie. The fading Christmas spirit is bringing him down, but a few minutes of thank you cards – complete with photos showing kids with themed toys that led to dream careers for adults coming true – almost bring him to tears. It’s also about Mrs. Claus (Marianne Jean-Baptiste) who is nice, caring and more than able to deal with himself when it comes to that. The relationship between the two is extremely loving and possibly the warmest in Gibson’s career. They joke, they chat sweetly with each other, and there is even a cheeky tease between the two that gets them to bed. They’re a cute couple, and they provide a pleasant contrast to the increasingly clumsy killer.
The Nelms brothers keep the film down in spite of its partly magical backdrop. We see the sleigh and the reindeer, but we never see them fly. The elves are equally “real” with no special effects, and the only magic that occurs on the screen is depicted with a subdued eye. Remove the Christmas element and Fatman is a solid siege film that turns into a bloody, action-packed finale – including a serious and violent shoot on the Workshop Square – but that makes the film a nifty twist on the usual holiday Christmas cheer and numerous bloody deaths .
Trust your gut on this one, and if the idea intrigues (and Gibson isn’t a deal-breaker) be sure to add it to your rotation of vacation viewing as it delivers the story, despite the growing darkness, a renewed vacation excitement too Find. “I came because of your thick head!” We hear an intense goggins say, and your bitter little heart grows three sizes that day.