‘Fatman’ review: Mel Gibson is the worst Santa of all time

And here I thought the pandemic would ruin Christmas. But Mel Gibson got there first.

For his latest instrument of torture, a k a film, the actor plays Chris Cringle, a k a Santa Claus, in “Fatman.” Many performers have given a unique spin on Father Christmas, from Edmund Gwenn as the traditional jolly type in “Miracle on 34th Street” to Tim Allen as an angry divorced dad in “The Santa Clause.” Mel’s Canadian schlub with a sooty beard and John Wayne voice is the worst of them all.

In this telling, Chris lives proudly out in the open on an average-looking farm in a real northern town with his wife Ruth (Marianne Jean-Baptiste). He is cranky and monotonous, he doesn’t wear the red suit, he drinks beer at the pub and is friendly with the locals. No one seems to care or acknowledge that he is a magical being who annually sneaks into their homes to give them gifts.

Santa’s Workshop, like so many small businesses, has fallen on hard times, but for a dubious reason. The operation, which is subsidized by the US government (so stupid), has floundered because Santa is delivering as much coal as he is presents. Chris, we’re told, is paid by volume of packages. He laments that the drop-off is because the world’s children are misbehaving.

“There is a rising number of youth making poor decisions,” he tells the elves, who are somber, slightly shorter-than-normal middle-class seasonal workers. “This has unfortunately caused our yearly subsidy to be well below our current budget.”

So he partners with the military to use the elves to make control panels for jet planes. Writers and directors Eshom and Ian Nelms clearly think this is all very clever, but it really makes you want to chuck tree ornaments at the TV.

What exactly is this commenting on or satirizing anyway? Kids today are more coddled, spoiled and screen-obsessed than they were before, but they haven’t all turned into tiny devils. But what’s the use of wonderin’? Combing for logic here is like trying to find nachos at a Japanese grocery. Good luck!

The B-plot — yes, there is somehow more — is about an annoying, supersmart rich kid who gets a lump of coal under the tree, and vows revenge on “the fatman!”. He hires an assassin, credited as “Skinny Man” (Walton Goggins, overdoing it), to kill Santa. The movie ends in a bloody shootout, and although it considers itself a comedy, it is not funny.

Oh, to peek into the mind of Mel Gibson. The 64-year-old actor’s choices, both personal (“F - - king Jews!”) and professional, are highly suspect. He hasn’t been in one good movie since 2002’s “Signs,” but he was nominated for a Best Director Oscar just three years ago for “Hacksaw Ridge.” There is an ounce of taste in there somewhere, but, like cicadas, it hides for years and years, makes a big fuss and then stars in “Daddy’s Home 2.”

Gibson’s got another strong performance in him, I think, but this Christmas crapola sure ain’t it.

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