I'll try and remain impassive as I write this review, but know that it
was written under a drizzling cloud of disappointment. You see, having
martial arts stars Cynthia Rothrock, Gary Daniels, Daniel Bernhardt,
and Kathy Long - along with the added bonus of Western staple Chris
Mitchum - together in the same movie would be a genuine dream come
true, but only if it were a genuine action flick. It's no good to dwell
on things that never were, but I spent the entire movie thinking how
much cooler it would be if they were all fighting each other. It would
certainly have been more entertaining, because SANTA'S SUMMER HOUSE is
far from a new Christmas classic.
The story: A mysterious fog brings a van of vacationers to an isolated
villa on the sunny California coast, where a jovial couple (Mitchum and
Rothrock) offer them shelter. As it becomes clear that their hosts are
none other than Mr. and Mrs. Claus, the guests are given the
opportunity to address the personal problems that have troubled them
To be certain, there is not one lick of action the film: no shootouts,
chase scenes, explosions, or kickboxing of any kind. As odd as it is to
see any of these stars in an entirely thrills-free movie, it's not
entirely unexpected. For years, Rothrock and the like have spoken about
their desire to branch out into other genres, and the family-holiday
category was apparently among these. While this isn't a very positive
review, know that the picture is at least better than the previous film
Cynthia Rothrock did with director David DeCoteau (alias Mary
Crawford). For all its faults, SANTA'S can at least keep its plot
rolling and create the impression that it's building towards a
The acting is on the poor side. Daniels and Long do reasonably well and
generate believable emotion in their roles as a troubled couple.
Bernhardt's got more energy than anyone, but he loses the fight with
the screenplay that turns him into an obnoxious jerk. Rothrock attempts
to be wholesome and jolly but often comes across as a Stepford wife.
Mitchum's incredibly forced "ho ho ho!" is painful to listen to.
Supporting stars Elijah Adams Jessica Morris and Rachel Rosenstein
don't elevate the standard by much.
The screenplay's pretty disappointing for its quantities of unnatural
dialogue ("I was born to be embarrassed!"). Most of the individual
conflicts likewise seem forced, with Jessica fretting that sister
Rachel isn't growing up fast enough and getting upset that she
practices photography. At one point, a game of croquet lasts for an
uninterrupted eight minutes without any integral dialogue or
development. Luckily, there are at least some nice moments near the end
of the movie, (SPOILER) when Santa Mitchum gets his guests to confront
their problems by having them read their old Christmas letters.
Technically, the feature toes the line between making the best use of
its limited resources and just not looking very good. Expect to see a
cheap budget reflected in the movie's production values, with corny
transitional sweeps, time-killing environmental shots, blue filters
instead of nighttime lighting, and the fact that the entire soundtrack
is comprised of instrumental versions of holiday tunes that get quite
old after a while.
In the end, this odd experiment is tolerable for 90 minutes but
completely unworthy of that commitment. Aside from the fact that I
still wish I could see these performers together in an action feature,
their collaboration just doesn't amount to the kind of magical whimsy
that one finds in the best Christmas movies. I do admire them setting
aside the expectations of others to do a project that they wanted to,
but man, I wish it could've been with a bigger budget and a better