Welcome back to Junkfood Cinema; our reindeer games are Reindeer Games. Twas the night before Christmas, and here at JFC, we’re administering cinematic pain with despicable glee. These holiday movies are awful, fraught with despair. And at first we treat them with an appropriate lack of care. But then we reverse, like our heads we did wound, seeing to it that with love these turds are festooned. To top it all off, ‘ere we roll out of sight, we pair the film with a snack to make your Crisco-mas bright.
And now we present, before this stops being funny, a disaster called Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny.
What Makes It Bad?
To properly lampoon Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny, I must resort to tactic heretofore unseen in this column. (Humor?) Shut up, self! For the next few sentences, I will not make a single joke. I need this abdication of puns, quips, and gags to be absolutely clear so that the absurdity of this film’s actual plot strikes you upside the head like a lead candy cane. I will caution you to move any breakable objects out from directly beneath you as they are now in the jaw drop zone. Okay, here goes…no jokes…whew…no jokes…here goes…
Santa’s sleigh drops out of the sky and lands smack dab in the middle of a sandy beach in Florida. Good so far? Oh, just wait. No jokes. His reindeer have run off and he is sweltering in the hot Floridian sun. He sends out a thunderous call to all the children in the area, calling all of them by name except for two girls whom he just calls, “girls.” The children come running to his aid, passing Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn on a raft as they do. No jokes…head starting to hurt. They trod out a menagerie of animals to serve as potential replacements for the wayward reindeer (including a cow, a sheep, and a dog) to no avail. In an effort to raise the spirits of the children, who he’s already disheartened by telling them they won’t be getting any gifts that year, Santa tells the children the story of…Thumbelina. Actually, he tells them the story of a little girl who goes to a theme park and who is told the story of Thumbelina by a loudspeaker as she watches the tale unfold in a magical diorama at the Thumbelina exhibit. Yeah, ok, so that happens. Then, when the story is completed, the children hear a siren and, lo and behold, here comes…The Ice Cream Bunny…driving a fire engine…to save the day? No jokes, just a twitch that I’m fairly certain is the early stages of a stroke.
Yes, that is the plot of this lost, rightly, 70s holiday non-classic. The elements of this film are like massive tectonic plates of crazy floating on batshit magma on the gonzo crust of this mad mad mad world. As you would expect, Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny was not produced by a major studio. In fact, the film was produced by a failing theme park in Florida. That’s right, the not-at-all-famous-to-anyone Pirate’s World, the very same park that provided the setting for what has to be one of the most uncomfortable retellings of Thumbelina ever conceived by supposed human beings. But yes, Pirate’s World. It’s not a world for “Pirates” in general nor is it a world belonging to all “Pirates’.” Instead it is apparently a park owned by one random individual pirate. So as you walk shuffle monotonously from the rusted Ferris Wheel to the Tilt-a-Whirl that neither tilts nor whirls, you could at any point be tossed out of the park by its rightful owner: Long John Silver or Blackbeard or…Roberto Clemente.
Therein lies the problem with Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny, apart from the producers’ dreadful mistake of actually producing it. If the issue were simply a disharmonious combination of very different elements, that would be one thing; a shit stew of sorts. But instead what we have is more akin to a shit salad, with all the individual ingredients proving just as rotten individually as they are together. It’s like a garbage sculpture of a pile of garbage. Let’s break this down like an improper fraction…
The pairing of Santa Claus and Thumbelina is as appropriate as the pairing of fried chicken and nail guns. So right off the bat, Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny has an uphill battle to sell this distinctly non-Christmasy concept. But the manner in which the film includes Thumbelina’s tragic, and oddly misogynistic, tale is downright baffling. Santa is telling the kids the story of a girl being told the story of Thumbelina as she watches the story unfold, a story that she is also a part of, as the loudspeaker narrator changes from someone outside the story to a character within the story. So Santa is basically trying to relay…to children…a story with more levels than a Mega Man NES game designed by Christopher Nolan; now facing Inception Man! But get past all that, I know you won’t, and what you have is the story of a woman who learns that she can only be happy with “her own kind” and only then if she is married to a man and serving his every whim. Gee, great choice for story time, Santa. This movie makes me want to burn the bra I promise I don’t wear.
Only slightly less inexplicable in its moronitude is the pairing of Santa with…The Ice Cream Bunny. If you recall your Mother Goose, Aesop fables, Grimm’s fairy tales, Disney flicks, 80s children’s television, and fast food spokespersons, you’ll be keenly aware that this character DOESN’T EXIST ANYWHERE! The reason for his absence from any preexisting material is most likely his total and willfully insulting lack of definition. Why the hell is he called the Ice Cream Bunny? He isn’t made of ice cream, he doesn’t eat ice cream, and he doesn’t distribute ice cream either by hand or from any orifice. In fact, this flop job doesn’t even mention the words “ice cream” once in his very limited screen time. Is he called the Ice Cream Bunny because he is white and some ice cream is also white? That seems pretty flimsy. If that’s the case, why isn’t Santa called The Bloated Tick Man? So the Ice Cream Bunny shows up driving a woefully out-of-date fire engine, not that driving a fancy modern fire engine would have fallen within the realm of reason, just in time to save Santa. Was this Pirate’s World’s mascot or something, I guess I could understand if that were the–hey wait, neither ice cream nor bunnies have anything to do with pirates either! Damn you, Roberto Clemente!
So the whole time these kids are trying to save Santa’s bacon, ironically proposing a pig as the beast of burden at one point, all the old fat guy does is sit in his sleigh and complain about the heat. Funny thing about sitting directly in the blistering sunlight, it tends to get a little warm. But it never dawns on pathetic old St. Nicolas to get his chubby posterior up out of the sleigh and, I don’t know, seek shelter perhaps? I get that you’re from the North Pole, Santa, but you do know how the sun works, yes? You don’t actually believe that it is a sentient being that will follow you wherever you go as if you’ve made it to World 2 in Super Mario Brothers 3, right? The hapless putz doesn’t even think to take off his enormous winter coat until about thirty minutes into the film. I hate to say it, but perhaps this is an unfortunately festive example of natural selection; deck the halls with Darwinism. Am I being too cruel to Santa? At the risk of receiving nothing but coal this year, hell to the no! Because after we go through all this grief to get Santa’s sleigh out of the…shallow sand, listening to his entirely-too-complicated rendition of Thumbelina and calling in pallid, lactophiliac mascots for help, the sleigh disappears! So Santa drives off with the Ice Cream Bunny as the children, who have worked themselves half to death trying to get the sleigh unstuck, wave goodbye, we find out the goddamn sleigh could have teleported out at any time? I’m gonna say it, Santa’s kind of a dick.
And let us not forget about Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn…as clearly the screenwriter did. They show up for a moment at the beginning and then again at the end, having not moved from the bushes on the bank of what they claim is the Mississippi River. I’m going to go ahead and ignore the fact that no other representatives of the literary world traverse the boundaries of time, space, and being inescapably fictional to help Santa in his time of need. I have to ignore it because otherwise my head fold in on itself fifty times like Cronenberg origami. Instead I want to note the fact that the Mississippi River is 100 miles from the nearest Florida beach, so these corny bumpkins are out and out wrong. But I suppose if you carelessly play leap frog with planes of existence, the laws of simple geography need not apply to you.
Why I Love It!
Quite simply, and because at this point I have lost the ability to conjure words of any greater significance, Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny exists. That in and of itself is a monumental achievement for both Pirate’s World and the entire human race. It is like an experiment in self-imposed obscurity. It’s clear that not a single person who worked on this film, or had the dubious distinction of “starring” in it, believed it would ever see the light of day outside the hallowed walls of that “amusement” park, which subsequently-and without the slightest hint of shock–closed three years after the release of this film. To their credit, and perhaps in calculated defense of their collective pride, for years the film failed to graduate beyond one sorry VHS release.
However, the film’s reputation for extraordinary levels of nonsense caught the attention of the gents over at Rifftrax. The former quip-slingers, the b-movie Gielguds, of Mystery Science Theater 3000 have since made available for sale their irreverent musings on all manner of new films as well as “classic” “cinema” fare that was sadly overlooked during the series’ run. The siren call of Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny‘s beautiful abomination was too much for them to ignore and they have released a side-splitting Rifftrax commentary for the film. Also provided on the DVD is the film itself so, against all odds and in clear defiance of legislation against the purveyance of black magic, Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny is available on DVD.
Making it through the entirety of this film’s runtime is the pinnacle of cinematic endurance tests. You will be tempted, in the moments when the air is wholesale let out of the already vacuous plot, that you will not only want to turn it off, you’ll also be tempted to pray to whatever most convenient god can promise immediate snowfall so that you have the ability to experience the far more rapid release of hypothermia. If nothing else, Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny makes you appreciate even the heretofore perceived lamest of holiday films.
Junkfood Pairing: Blue Bunny Ice Cream
As you watch this confounding combination of Santa, bunnies, and ice cream, try to cool the hot, feverish flashes of frustrated rage with this frigid, delicious, and far more practical pairing of rabbits and frozen freezer treats. Happy Holidays from all of me here at Junkfood Cinema!