This was the last entry in Rifftrax’s 2015 series (dubbed The Crappening) and by far the most bizarre. The actual “film” Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny appears to have been a video advertisement for a local Miami theme park, the plot of which is: Santa Claus’ sleigh breaks down on a Miami Beach. The reindeer abandon him because it’s too hot, and they’re faithless bitches, and poor old, sweaty, dirty-pantsed, shirtless Santa has to find another means off the beach. “The kids” come to try to help him; they all fail.
It’s kind of a thin plot, so it’s actually used as a bookend for another story: In an earlier known version of the film, Santa tells the kids the story of “Thumbelina” while they sweat together on the beach trying to figure out how, oh, how to get him back to the North Pole in time. Mike, Kevin and Bill have riffed this previously. They found another version of this film where the inner story is that of “Jack and the Beanstalk”. I can’t imagine how “Thumbelina” must’ve gone but the “Jack and the Beanstalk” story is an amazing thing: The lowest budget production imaginable combined with a fashion sense that only the early ’70s could provide. (Apparently, all three and something called “Musical Mutiny” were filmed at the same park, Pirate’s World.)
The whole thing does not even rise to the level of “bad”. It’s just sort of astounding. I felt kind of bad for the kid playing Jack, since he was very gamely giving it his all: I would go so far as to say he was a good performer, given the constraints. The constraints are terminal, alas.
Before the main feature, there were no fewer than three shorts, and these were just as bizarre in their own way. The first one was a very early short featuring two kids who come out on Christmas Eve to discover Santa doing his biz in the living room. Santa then proceeds to tell them a story (yes, it’s another story-within-a-story deal) about chimpanzees. And the message of this is that these chimpanzees (all of whom have been outfitted by humans and made to do human-like things) are just like us. Santa actually says something to the effect that the only difference between them and you is that they know they’re monkeys. Which, apart from being wrong on so many levels, raises the question of what sort of propaganda was this intended to be? Pro-Darwin? (It wouldn’t have been long after Scopes, so maybe?)
The next short was probably the most amateurish thing in a night of amateurish things: A telling of Ogden Nash’s “Custard The Dragon” with kids kinda-sorta acting the characters in the poem. Literally, your grandparents might have acted this out with your great-grandparents filming it, 80 years ago. I mean, it might be someone’s home movie. It’s a fine child’s poem, I suppose, but this is just a giant—who? why? how could they?—well, look you don’t even have to take my word for it. You can probably find it on YouTube (unriffed).
The third short was actually in the same vein as Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny: Essentially a commercial for Santa’s Village (a very modest franchised “theme park”), it at least tells a story. In this one, Santa’s shop foreman is running around the park trying to get his elves from wasting the day doing all the fun things at the park rather than working. And when I say “fun things”, I mean there was a puppet show, and they’re watching that. It was a very modest park.
Of the four movies that were part of The Crappening, I (by far) preferred Miami Connection, but I have to say that, by the end of this one, when the Ice Cream Bunny shows up, there were moments I was having trouble breathing from laughing so hard.
I invested in bringing back MST3K, and I think it would be great to see Bill, Kevin and Mike back on that show for guest appearances, Rifftrax is its own thing and I’m confident that the world is plenty big for two great riffing ventures. So support ’em all, I say!