★★ Mystery Science Theater 3000: Santa Claus is a holiday episode of MST3K that begins with a quick caroling session by Mike and the robots that is followed by a needed application of burn cream. The sections of the film where the crew isn’t riffing on the movie are filled with Christmas themed events like this, from gift exchanges to video chatting with relatives.
Of course, MST3K is all about watching bad movies and listening to Mike and the robots make fun of them. They help make bad movies watchable, and "so bad they're good" movies sublime. In this instance, the film in question is Santa Claus, described thusly, “It’s a stupid Mexican kids’ movie!” However, I think by saying that, they oversold it.
Santa Claus has to be the worst Christmas movie of all time. Filmed in Mexico and dubbed into English, it’s a perplexing variety of nonsense. In this world, Santa lives in a castle in the clouds. He doesn’t employ elves. Instead he has apparently kidnapped children from around the world to make his toys. I say around the world, because these kids are dressed stereotypically from a variety of countries, some of which aren't even countries, like "Africa" and “The Orient.” For the first ten minutes of the film, these kids sing different songs as Santa accompanies them on the organ.
Christmas Eve is fast approaching and, annoyed with the good cheer Santa will soon be bringing, Lucifer (yes… that Lucifer) sends a devil named Pitch to Earth to turn all the kids evil before Santa can get there. Pitch focuses his efforts on three young hooligans who begin to throw rocks and cause a small amount of mischief.
Lupitan is a little girl who wants a doll her parents can’t afford. She thinks about stealing one, and almost does, but either decides not to, or hears the omnipresent narrator who's telling her not to do it. The narrator describes and comments on everything that’s happening on screen throughout the film, even though all of it is plain as day.
Santa finally heads to Earth to deliver his presents. He’s under the strict deadline of being back home before sunrise or the reindeer will turn to dust. His sleigh moves incredibly slow through the sky and instead of landing on the roofs, he hovers above the houses and lowers a rope ladder. It’s a comically slow process. He also finds the time to serve drinks disguised as a waiter in order to make two parents realize they shouldn’t have left their little kid home by himself on Christmas Eve.
Pitch and Santa do battle throughout the night, playing ineffective pranks on each other. Santa eventually requires the help of Merlin (yes… that Merlin), and Christmas is saved. Quite honestly, I don't know if I've ever been more happy to see “The End” appear on screen.
The MST3K crew does their best with the material, “Do you really think it’s a good idea to jingle ALL the way?” But even they can’t save this film. I began to look forward to the times when they would leave the theater and break into the silly skit segments of the show.
At the very end, Pitch and Santa cross over into the MST3K universe and do battle, “I’m here to eat candy canes and kick ass, and I’m all out of candy canes!” It’s an amusing ending, but not enough to elevate the entire episode. Santa Claus itself is a one star movie. And sadly, it's so bad that the addition of Mike and company could only pull it up to a two.