I love bad movies. If you've been reading this blog, it's a given. And, I love weird kiddie matinee movies from the 60s and 70s. If they're Christmas kiddie matinee movies, even more so. But Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny...wow.
I'm going to start out by saying, this is easily the worst Christmas film I've ever seen. Really, calling it a Christmas film at all is stretching it, as I'll explain later, but for now let's just leave it at that. It's also probably the worst kid's film I've ever seen as well. (Yes, it's even worse than The Magic Land of Mother Goose, another kid's film with a tacked on Christmas tie in.) I'm going to go so far and say it's on the top 10 worst films I've ever seen. (Now there's a list I need to compile some day.)
If you want to read a recap of the film almost as long as the movie itself, block off an hour and click here. If you'd like a more sensible length recap, try this one. But, since you are here, let me give you my quick run down of what goes on in this movie.
First up, we have Santa's sleigh stuck on a beach in Florida. Why? Who knows? Santa magically summons a motley crew of kids to help unstick him, and they try...for nearly fifteen minutes. When they run out of random farm animals to try to hitch to the sleigh, they hunker down for Santa to tell them a story. And by tell them a story, I mean unspool an entirely unrelated movie, complete with opening titles, within this movie.
For the next hour, we are treated to schlockmeister Barry Mahon's take on Thumbelina, apparently filmed two years earlier. The only connection this Thumbelina has to the Santa bits is that they both have parts filmed at the Pirate's World amusement park. I mention this because it is the only thread connecting these two things.
Thumbelina doesn't have squat to do with Christmas and doesn't even try to. The acting is horrible, the songs excruciatingly long and the animal costumes aren't even detailed enough to be nightmare fuel. One thing Thumbelina has is plenty forced cross species romance. My favorite bit is when Thumbelina reels off a list of why she can't marry Mr. Digger, a rich mole, and the fact that he is not human comes in last by a long stretch.
Anyway, eventually, though not soon enough, Thumbelina ends and we're returned to our Santa stuck in the sand already in progress. I'd like to remind you, we're about an hour and fifteen minutes in and we've barely seen Santa and have seen neither hide nor hair of the Ice Cream Bunny. But wait, we're not done yet. Since someone was nice enough to YouTube it, I'd like to present to you the last ten minutes of the film.
If you're worried that you didn't understand what just happened because you came in at the end, let me assure you, I saw the entire thing and I still have no idea what just happened. You will note, as everyone who has seen this movie does, a distinct lack of ice cream. I guess he was in such a hurry slowly driving to save Santa, he completely forgot about his namesake dessert item. Maybe he was made of ice cream, though that would be highly impractical in Florida.
You should also note someone either pushing the fire truck or a kid who has fallen off the back and is attempting to catch up. My guess is the former, as the truck is moving so slowly you'd have to be dead to let it pass you.
There is one detail you missed from the front half of the film. The two kids in the straw hats? Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. Why? No clue. They don't figure into this film at all except for a scene establishing who they are and showing them spying on the Santa scene. When they popped back out at the end, I'd completely forgotten they were ever there, that's how little they added to the movie.
By putting that clip up, I'm afraid I've oversold the film. See, that is literally the best ten minutes in this ninety minute film. It goes downhill from there. All of the stuff I'd read about this movie didn't prepare me for the tedium that sets in quickly while watching.
Other classics in this genre of bad kiddie Christmas movies, like Santa Claus Conquers the Martians or the Mexican Santa Claus, may be inept, but they are never less than entertaining, even if for all the wrong reasons. Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny is just plan boring. The only reason the ending is worth seeing is it's about the only time in the movie anything at all worth watching happens.
Prior to this, I'd have said two of the worst kiddie flick I'd seen were The Magic Land of Mother Goose and Jimmy, The Boy Wonder, two films the great Herschell Gordon Lewis did for other people in between gore and sexploitation films. Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny shares many traits with those two movies (tacked on Christmas theme, nonsensical film with in a film, grade school play production values, terrible songs) but it truly takes them to another level. Jimmy and Mother Goose may be slow in spots, but they're mind blowing in others. The Ice Cream Bunny is just dull.
I sought this one out because it has a bit of a reputation among connoisseurs of crap cinema. After seeing it, I really can't understand the appeal. There's good crap and bad crap and this is definitely bad, boring crap. Unless you are up to an endurance challenge, a completest or a masochist, I'd recommend staying far away from this one.