Santa Claus is comin’ to frown in Fatman, which should have never gotten past the conceptual stage. From brother directors Eshom and Ian Nelms, Mel Gibson is a dour Chris Cringle. Holiday cheer isn’t what it used to be and neither is business. He’s remotely located in Alaska with supportive wife Ruth (Marianne Jean-Baptiste) and the elves and reindeer when an overachieving kid and the U.S. government cramp his style.
His toy making enterprise is disrupted by the military (they’ve got a contact with him) and his diminutive workers are tasked with making parts for a fighter jet. A different kind of contract is put out on Santa’s head by spoiled brat Billy (Chance Hurstfield). When he receives a lump of coal on Christmas morning, he hires hitman Jonathan (Walton Goggins) to exact revenge on the bearded icon. This is no problem for the eccentric assassin as he harbors childhood ill will toward the no longer jolly Saint Nick.
A potentially interesting idea is simply squandered here. Fatman isn’t good for many laughs or thrilling action sequences. The industrial complex themes are reminiscent of Barry Levinson’s expensive bomb Toys from 1992. When that’s the only comparison that comes to mind, you’re in trouble. It’s as if the filmmakers (who also wrote the script) believed the notion of Santa toting weapons and protecting his turf was enough to fill 100 minutes. Turns out the answer is no no no! Gibson’s Cringle is supposed to be bored for the most of the running time so that sort of explains his performance. You’ll (or shall I say) yule be right there with him in this joyless slog.
*1/2 (out of four)