Monday, May 20, 2024

Review: Mel Gibson’s “Fatman” is a Terrible Movie, But the Real Insult is Casting a Black Woman to Prove He’s Not a Racist


Reviewing Mel Gibson’s “Fatman” is easy enough, like shooting fish in a barrel. It’s a terrible movie, a piece of junk that shouldn’t be experienced by anyone. Even airplane passengers should be spared. But here it is anyway.

The real insult of “Fatman” — in which Gibson plays a curmudgeonly Kris Kringle — is that they’ve cast a black woman to play Mrs. Kringle to prove Gibson isn’t a racist. This is the height of cynicism. The exceptionally gifted Marianne Jean-Baptiste, perhaps choosing a payday over common sense, has taken the role. You wish that when she got the offer her agent had called Shonda Rhimes and said “I need work or I’ll have to do this.”

Gibson, of course, is infamously known for making racist, anti-Semitic, and misogynistic remarks not only to police officers in a DUI arrest, but to his ex-girlfriend, years later, who taped him. He is a reprehensible human.

“Fatman” is written and directed by a pair of brothers, Ian Nelms and Eshom Nelms, who will not be confused with other famous siblings who co-direct movies. They aren’t Coens, Dardennes, or even Safdies. Their movie is a shrill piece of junk with no redeeming features.

Here’s the plot: a wealthy, very obnoxious 12 year old hires a deranged hit man to kill Santa Claus. The 12 year old boy, Chance Hurstfield, had better go to school because he’s not going to be a professional actor. (I never want to see him again.) In one scene, the boy and the hit man kidnap a girl in his class and attempt to torture her over winning a science fair. This is not a joke. They’re serious.

The hit man (Walton Goggins) hates Santa anyway, so he obliges. Meantime, the US military has hired Santa and his elves to help them do something unclear during his off season. Again, the film is not funny or tongue in cheek. There is a lot of violence and killing.

You can tell there wasn’t much budget. Everything looks cheap. The so-called “elves” themselves verge on a racist joke.  By making this movie, Gibson has doubled down on all his criticisms. With his bushy gray beard and craggy appearance, it’s as if he’s staring at the audience screaming, “Yeah, I give up. I’m just what you imagined. Stuff it!” He’s destroyed his career. When Goggins finally does appear to have killed him, there’s a sense of relief.

No real director will work with Gibson, so he’s down to either making his own movie or hiring people like the Nelmses. He should really choose another option, and not make any more movies. In the meantime, we have the option of not watching them.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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