Five travelers on a summer pleasure cruise in Southern California are waylaid by a mysterious fog. Landing on a strange island they meet its two inhabitants; an eccentric old man and his jolly wife who go by the name of ‘Claus’. the travelers soon disconver they share a common bond of discontent that will need to be remedied by some off-season Christmas magic.”
-DVD box description of “Santa’s Summer House”
With the Summer solstice upon us, what better way to celebrate than with a “Christmas in July” Mary Crawford movie? Of course, Mary Crawford movies wouldn’t be complete without inexplicably confusing storylines and poor production value. There’s so much wrong with this movie already and I haven’t even started tearing it apart yet.
Let’s take a look at the DVD cover first. Check out that tagline: “Even the toughest action stars in the world…have a soft spot in their heart for Christmas!”. Okay sure, that’s great and all, there’s just one problem: none of the characters in this movie are action stars. Each character’s job is explicitly stated, and none are even remotely close to anything pertaining to “action star”. It’s possible whoever wrote that tag confused the actors with other people, but more on that later.
Next, let’s address the DVD box description. That tells us that the group is on a ship and wind up on an island. That has a nice “Gilligan’s Island” ring to it, but alas, it’s also completely inaccurate. The group is driving in a van, very much on land the entire time (I know because they spend the first five minutes of the film showing this van driving through the mountains). It drives right up to a mansion (oh yes, THE mansion). There are a few odd establishing shots that could hint that the house is near the beach, but as with every Mary Crawford film, the establishing shots are so schizophrenic that I haven’t the faintest idea where they actually are. The beach, mountains, the desert? We may never know. They are most definitely NOT on an island though. When the movie’s own description is wrong, you know you’re off to a great start.
Once you get past that glaring oversight in the description, the rest is mostly accurate. This is a story about Santa helping put people in a better mood. Who are these people though, and why are they so grumpy?
I’m so glad you asked.
Don’t lie, you definitely want to know.
Let’s take a look at our cast of characters:
Dean and Sadie – A married couple who work too much and who’s son can’t remember the last time they had a good holiday. They will henceforth be known as “Not Daniel Craig” and “Not Linda Hamilton”, because THIS:
I can only imagine that’s who the writers thought these people were when they came up with the description. It must be a pretty common case of mistaken identity, since even IMDB’s summary of “Santa’s Summer House” says, “90s action stars stumble onto Santa’s summer beach house!” Kudos to these two random people for being mistaken for actual movie stars.
Andy – Dean and Sadie’s son who spends most of the movie hitting on the only other person his age in the entire film. Believes “So do you like zombies?” is a natural conversation starter.
Bryan – Creeptastic ego-maniac who flirts with a pretty blonde while spending the entire film insulting her and being outright rude. May be a serial killer (would have made for a much more interesting movie if he was).
Constance – The aforementioned “pretty blonde” Bryan flirts with. Constance is as equally bitchy as Bryan, denying her little sister any fun and insisting she help with Constance’s catering business/prep work in all of her free time. Mean girl to the extreme.
Molly – Constance’s younger sister, and the closest thing to a “normal” character this movie has. Spends her time taking photographs while everyone tells her how talented she is (they show some of the photos – clearly everyone was just being polite). Also the recipient of Andy’s awkward attempts at flirting. Character I most feel sorry for.
“Nanna” – A.k.a. Mrs. Claus, although she bears about as much resemblance to what we would all picture Mrs. Claus to look like as I do.
Ah yes, sweet Mrs. Claus with her blond-streaked hair and pushup bra. Brings back so many childhood memories.
Pop – A.k.a. Santa, who just spends the whole movie laughing jovially as he simultaneously pretends to NOT be Santa. At one point one of the characters even asks him: “Has anyone ever told you you look like Santa Claus?” to which he replies with a cringe-worthy, ho-ho-ho laugh:
No one has ever told this man he looks like Santa Claus. Who would ever be drunk enough to think that??
Mike – driver of the van who only appears in the very beginning and end of the movie. Also holds the distinction of being the first non-white actor in ANY of these Mary Crawford films to date, so. At least MC is getting with the times, albeit at a snail’s pace.
Let’s not forget the star of the show, everyone’s favorite lovably useless dog, straight out of “An Easter Bunny Puppy”: Tess! And yes, she’s just as useless here as she was in that, but she must have wandered into a shot or two and they left it in, so obviously that means she gets to grace the cover of the DVD. (Oddly enough, Tess made the cover, but Molly, who actually has a ROLE in the plot of the film, is nowhere to be found. Did she miss picture day?).
The plot is pretty basic, even by Mary Crawford’s standards. Each character is a buzzkill, and Santa makes it his goal to brighten their spirits a bit. He decides they should all do a secret Santa gift exchange (when they’re trapped in his house for the weekend with no means of buying or even really making anything) and for some reason they all agree.
Santa’s “list”, which will also double as the list of names for selecting a secret Santa recipient. It’s literally just a piece of torn computer paper duct-taped to a “scroll”. They spare no expense on props over at “Santa’s Summer House”.
There’s about a dozen of these dollar-store snowflakes tacked up to the wall in Santa’s study. That’s pretty much all the “Santa” decor we get, and it’s not even specifically Santa Claus related!! No wonder all of these people are depressed. This is a poor excuse for holiday cheer.
The film’s got plenty of Mary Crawford goodness in it to satisfy viewers, though. Take, for instance, Andy creepily stalking Mrs. Claus while the “Kinky Boots”-esque statue just stands there, proudly displayed in all its phallic glory.
No, that discoloration isn’t due to my photography skills, that’s REALLY HOW THE MOVIE LOOKS.
The dialogue is cringe-worthy as ever, with Nanna delivering some of the best lines of the film:
“Oh we don’t have wifis, this is a summer house.”
-Wifis. Mary Crawford, do YOU know what wifi is?? I’m starting to wonder…
“We’ve got little soaps, and the shampoo, feel free to take them if you like.”
“We have all the amenities.”
-Is Nanna a host or a concierge?
There’s a special “dinner” planned for the guests which literally consists of plain pasta in a bowl, bread, and a dish filled with tomato sauce. Obviously the Claus’s spare no expense when offering up their hospitality.
I’m also fairly certain this was the meal the cast ate on the actual day of filming (I refuse to believe this was shot in more than one day) and that Mary Crawford had to promise them a meal to get the actors to show up.
One of my favorite repeat pop-ups in the movie is one I haven’t brought up on this blog yet, though it’s made an appearance in numerous Mary Crawford pictures:
This super random pizza sign from a pizzeria in Flanders, NJ. Why is this here? Are we to believe Santa loves THIS pizza place better than any other in the world?? Then again, the guy’s got a phallic wooden sculpture and half a car in his home, so I suppose anything is possible.
Bonus points if you spotted the camera man’s reflection in the tv. This thing is two seconds away from becoming a horror movie.
The truly magical part of this film, though, happens right around the middle of the story. For no reason whatsoever, all of the characters decide to take part in a spirited game of croquet. What proceeds is 9 minutes and 14 seconds of all of these actors playing a very dull game on what amounts to about a 10-square foot plot of land. We watch them use their mallets to his the same balls through the same posts over and over. Occasionally there’s a random cheer when someone makes a good shot, but for the most part there’s no dialogue.
We also get to see what is perhaps the most blatant example of “throwing the game” I’ve ever witnessed:
Be a little more obvious next time, dude.
I don’t know what the point of this tedious scene was, but it makes up far too much of the movie. Everyone seems happy and lighthearted during the game, but as soon as it ends the characters all go right back to being miserable. Not Linda Hamilton slowly begins to look dead in the eyes, as though she thought she was making a real movie and is quickly realizing that it’s closer to porn than anything else (seriously, every time Not Daniel Craig touches her she looks PETRIFIED.) You feel sorry for her, really.
The film ends with everyone finding a little holiday spirit after they realize that Pop is, in fact, Santa. They get creative and make homemade gifts for their secret Santas, while Bryan stays up all night in the kitchen designing a “Peekaboo Mysterioso”, some sort of jet-propelled rocket.
Did I not mention Bryan is supposed to be an ACTUAL rocket scientist?
I never knew rocket scientists worked in cardboard and duct-tape. Maybe I could be a rocket scientist too!
I have absolutely no idea how this movie ends. I watched it, but I think I was just so brain-dead from having sat through that croquet scene that I sort of glossed over the ending. I know Mike returns and carts them away in the van, as Nanna and Pop bid them all farewell. WHAT was accomplished from all of this, I really couldn’t say. Everybody seems happier by the end of the film, but that could just because they know it’s almost over and they can escape from Mary Crawford’s delusions.
I’m sad to say that this is the LAST Mary Crawford film (at least so far). I’ve watched and reviewed every movie David Decoteau has made under that pseudonym, and I think I’m all the richer for it.
Was it painful? Absolutely.
Was it hilarious? Obviously.
Would I do it again? Not unless I was heavily medicated.
Of course, just because this round of films is complete doesn’t mean I plan on stopping any time soon. I already have a handful of bad movies lined up to watch and review for “Hippo Planet”, and I can’t wait to get to them.
Still, I’m going to miss that Mary Crawford house. That weird, creepy, low-budget porn set of a house.