A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Fatman is an action/fantasy movie that imagines Santa Claus as a grumpy, drinking, gun-toting tough guy (Mel Gibson) who has to fight when a young boy hires a hit man to kill him. There's lots of violence, including guns and shooting, characters getting killed, blood spurts and bloody trails, fighting, stabbing, arm-breaking, etc. A young girl is threatened, both with electric shocks and with death to her family members (and dog). Santa and Mrs. Claus kiss and are shown lying in bed (presumably after sex), with Santa shirtless. There's also some sex-related talk and flirting. Language includes uses of "f--k," "motherf----r," "s--t," "t-ts," and more. Santa smokes a cigar and carries a flask, and characters drink in a bar. The villain smokes cigarettes, and a glass of milk is laced with fentanyl. It's not as funny as it might sound, but it somehow works, even if it's not meant for younger viewers.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
In FATMAN, grumpy Chris Cringle (Mel Gibson) is upset, drinking too much, and target-shooting to take out his frustrations. His toy workshop can't make ends meet, and the government subsidy check he receives annually is painfully low because there are fewer and fewer good children in the world who deserve Christmas gifts. While his loving wife (Marianne Jean-Baptiste) tries to keep him going, Chris reluctantly agrees to a contract, using the elves to make parts for military airplanes. Meanwhile, one nasty child -- wealthy, spoiled Billy Wenan (Chance Hurstfield), who's cheated and used threats to win the school science fair -- receives a lump of coal and angrily calls in a hit man (Walton Goggins) to bump off old St. Nick. For the hit man, this is an especially vengeful task, given that Santa Claus never brought him any gifts as a child.
Is it any good?
This strange, dark Christmas movie is a curious mix of fantasy, violence, and surprisingly few overt laughs, but it still somehow seems confident and fully committed to its wild situations. Written and directed by the Nelms brothers, Eshom and Ian, Fatman takes a little while to establish, that, yes, Chris Cringle is the real Santa Claus. He drives a rattletrap pickup truck, but he knows who's naughty and who's nice, he seems to have been around for a very long time, and he has honest-to-goodness elves working for him (they exist on an all-sweets diet). So despite his grumpiness and despite the uneasy real-world connotations of Gibson occupying the role, the character works.
Another secret weapon is Jean-Baptiste as a delightful, no-nonsense Mrs. Claus, supporting Chris and making the situation feel warmer. Goggins is always good at beady-eyed psychopaths, and Hurstfield -- easily drawing comparisons to certain real-world bullying tyrants -- is the perfect little demon child. The tone of Fatman is strange, with pieces and sections feeling like they almost don't quite fit together, butting up against each other and then oddly fitting. It never really feels like it's totally gone off the rails, and it's not entirely surprising, either, but it's just off-kilter enough and has just enough of heart to make it worth a holiday viewing.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Fatman's violence. How strong is it? Is it meant to be thrilling? Shocking? How did the movie achieve this effect?
Is this Santa Claus a role model? Does his iffy behavior make him more entertaining? More human? Does he make fun of or ruin the idea of Santa?
Why would the number of "naughty" children be on the rise today? What are some ways to encourage kids to be nice?
What's the appeal of "dark" Christmas-themed movies like this one?
- In theaters: November 13, 2020
- On DVD or streaming: January 26, 2021
- Cast: Mel Gibson, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Walton Goggins
- Directors: Eshom Nelms, Ian Nelms
- Studio: Saban Films
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Run time: 100 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: bloody violence, and language
- Last updated: January 25, 2021
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