Arts & Entertainment Editor
There is no better marker of Mel Gibson’s decline than Fatman (2020). Coincidentally, there is also no greater proof that the threat of cancel culture has been blown far out of proportion. Fatman presents a disjointed narrative starring Gibson as an attempted seasoned and grisly take on Santa Claus, or the Fatman, in which the U.S. military recruits Chris Cringle for reasons that remain incredibly unclear. The trailer seems to be relying on its dark comedy genre to gather an audience.
The trailer features scenes of dark lighting with low, gravelly voices that get washed away in the over-theatrical soundtrack. It flashes through scenes illustrating how the movie uses serious topics such as alcoholism, depression, revenge, and violence — standard for dark comedy and thrillers — to dramatize and allegedly bring comedy to a mundane Santa Claus/Christmas plot, but, quite frankly, this only comes across as lazy and uncoordinated in Fatman, making it seem like it won’t pan out in the long run.
Perhaps the issue is personal, as in, Gibson sucks. Where to start? There’s his anti-Semitic tirade when he was arrested for drunk driving, Winona Ryder accusing him of making anti-Semitic comments towards her, and his history of homophobia. If that’s not enough, there’s always his ex-partner Oksana Grigorieva’s allegations of domestic abuse and his violent threat featuring a slur. Obviously, cancel culture is hard at work, slowing Gibson’s career. However, maybe you can put all this aside, separate the art from the artist, though that would only work if Fatman was art and Gibson an artist. Both are false.
Remember those jokes about John Green coming up with the plots for his book by throwing darts at a board? Well, Fatman makes the so-called randomness of Green’s plots look as reductive as a Hallmark movie. A dark Santa Claus is potentially intriguing (Rise of the Guardians has been there, done that — but better), but being recruited by the military and having an assassination plot — believe or not — almost makes it trite. After dissecting this trailer, there’s nothing unique about it. If you watched any Bruce Willis movie and pretended he was Santa Claus, you would end up with Fatman. Mix in the sense of vengeance from Jack Frost in The Santa Clause 3 and we just summed up the whole plot as a drunken movie night. Congrats. What may have begun as an attempt to parody genre tropes seems to position itself as a stale reiteration of them. Can we stop slamming random concepts together and calling it comedy?
The only hope I have for this movie rests on the 12 year-old villain. Chance Hurstfield plays the child seeking the Fatman’s head after receiving coal for Christmas and contracting the hitman Skinnyman. Hurstfields’ previous role of an endearing young boy coming into acceptance of being gay in the wake of his father’s death in the ABC series A Million Little Things gives me faith that he has the emotional bandwidth to handle this dark comedy. At the very least, Hurstfield brings more emotional maturity to his role than Gibson relying on sarcasm and his life experience as a sh—ty person to portray a sick-of-it-all Santa Claus. I would be far more interested to see a game of cat-and-mouse between a child out for revenge and Santa Claus without involving the U.S. military (since when did Santa Claus live in the U.S.?). However, the line “there’s a rising number of our youth making poor decisions” rings a little hollow when it comes from someone with the track record of Gibson. The only other thing left to say on the casting is: way to absolutely fumble having Mariane Jean-Baptiste in your movie. Zero lines in the trailer and my only inkling to her character is Mrs. Claus(?), but, for her sake, let’s hope not.
The bottom line is the trailer paints a completely discombobulated picture of Fatman in an attempt to draw in viewers on intrigue alone (and it might be working) rather than comedic substance. The twisted version of Jingle Bells concluding the trailer seems to try to be a comedic play on the dramatization of songs in the promotion of thrillers, such as “Say My Name” by Destiny’s Child in Candyman (2020), but really just pushes this movie over the line into trying too hard to market itself as a dark comedy. Any comedy in this movie will be because it will become a mockery of itself. This is not to say absurdity can’t be the basis of comedy, but I expect if Fatman actually manages to put the pieces together, there will be little comedy, just an attempt to say “ho ho ho, times have changed.”
Featured Image: Courtesy of CinemaBlend
Kristi Weyand is a third-year double-majoring in English and Political Science with a perhaps-too-hopeful plan to pursue a career in journalism. Her time as the Arts & Entertainment Editor has led to her interest in the intersection of entertainment and ideas generally seen as political, inspiring her way-too-many thinkpieces. When she is not writing, she can be found procrastinating by baking, watching bad movies, over-listening to the same music, and crying over succulents she just can’t seem to keep alive.