Plot: Bumpy aims to steal Santa’s bag of toys directly from the North Pole. Will he succeed in his plot or will he learn the true meaning of Christmas? …Or both?
Breakdown: Why?….Why did I waste all of my drug jokes on the Pac-Man Christmas special?
I really shouldn’t have watched this movie with a splitting headache.
This movie is so weird. That’s not to say the movie is bad or anything, in fact it’s pretty decent, but it’s really weird.
I’m not a fan of claymation. Nothing but the utmost respect to the animators, claymation/stop motion is one of the biggest bitches in animation, and I take my hat off to anyone who chooses that as their style of choice, but I always found it to be very creepy. Even in beloved Christmas specials like Rudolph, the stop motion tends to come off as creepy much of the time.
It’s even worse here because the designs are meant to look weird and off-kilter since they’re monsters. They do achieve their goal of looking strange, but I never want to see a glob of goo try ‘tap dancing’ again. It was squicky and made me feel dirty somehow.
The claymation, done by Danger Productions, is pretty good, though. Everything is brought to life relatively well, even though you can tell that they definitely had budgetary constraints and had to edit their hearts out to refrain from using claymation wherever they could.
In addition to claymation, we also have a decent amount of paper cutout-ish traditional animation that’s done in that very 90’s-esque manner, if that makes any sense. Somehow, that tends to be even creepier than the claymation, and I was very happy that they didn’t use it that much.
This story is about Bumpy, a little green monster, wanting to steal Santa’s bag of toys. He tries to do so every year when Santa visits their home, but fails, so he’s decided that, this year, he’ll visit the North Pole and steal the bag directly from his home. He recruits his friend, aforementioned glob of goo named Squish, to help him on his journey with the promise of giving him feet from Santa’s bag. Because Santa always has disembodied feet in his bag. Oh did I say Santa? I meant a serial killer. Squish wants feet so he can tap dance at the Christmas pageant.
On their journey, they meet a Latino worm who wants to conquer a bush. There was no way I could describe that without it sounding like a euphemism. His name is Juaquin, and he’s voiced by Cheech Marin because this is a Latino character in the 90s – of course he’s voiced by Cheech Marin.
In exchange for the promise of bionic arms, Juaquin offers to dig them a tunnel to the North Pole, but he accidentally stops them in front of Stonehenge, where he is promptly crushed to death by a falling stone slab. Merry Christmas!
In comes a hummingbird named Doris who acts like an old lady. She wants a jet pack from Santa’s bag, so she agrees to point them in the right direction by telling them to follow the north star. Bumpy and Squish want to hitch a ride on her so they mold Squish into a cheeseburger, put him on a fishing line and use him to lure Doris into flying towards the north star……
Anyhoo, when they reach the North Pole, we get to the really amusing stuff. No super cutesy Christmas cheer here. It’s an army of militant snowmen and elves acting as army generals to protect Santa’s bag of toys.
I did a double take here because the designs of the elves looked damn near identical to the design of Amanda in those claymation segments of The Amanda Show. They weren’t done by the same people (The Amanda’s Show’s claymation was done by Tom Megalis) but the resemblance was uncanny.
In addition to the military part being funny in itself, the scene suddenly turns into an Indiana Jones parody when Bumpy reaches the bag. There’s also a funny joke with Santa’s sleigh stalling once he makes it outside.
Bumpy steals Santa’s sleigh, and Squish snags a ride right before he leaves. Then the elves try to shoot down the sleigh with ground-to-air candy cane missiles. In the commotion, the bag rips and sends presents down to each house. Doris gets her jet pack, and Juaquin reveals himself to be not dead and gets a pair of bionic arms.
They crash into the pageant, sending gifts flying to the other monsters/toys/dolls of their….town? I never really caught onto what this place is called. All of the presents are now claimed except one, which Bumpy tries to claim for himself, but is guilted into giving it to Squish because he promised him feet but didn’t deliver. In the box is a noisemaker meant to sound like tap-dancing, giving Squish the ability to tap dance even without feet.
Realizing that delivering all of the presents has made everyone happy, Bumpy learns the true meaning of Christmas is to give not receive.
A running subplot has been Molly, who is a kinda Frankenstein’d mishmash of a rag doll, trying to direct the holiday pageant in Squish’s stead. I guess it’s supposed to be funny because she’s meant to be a quiet and timid character that provides comfort, and now she’s basically chewing everyone’s heads off at every turn, but it’s mostly annoying. She does go back to her normal self in the end, but she spent most of the movie being a jerk. Everyone gives her a hug (which is what she wished for this Christmas) and forgives her for being a nightmare. Before that, though, she forces Bumpy to reprise his Christmas song from earlier, now changed lyrically to show that he’s learned his lesson over the course of his journey, so they can conclude the pageant.
Speaking of music, that is probably the oddest aspect of this whole movie. Quite randomly, we’ll get song interludes that are really just classic Christmas carols with different lyrics. The lyrics are never really well-written, and they’re pretty sloppy. It’s like most of the songs were written in the car ride to the studio that day. Many of the songs don’t even rhyme, and it’s difficult to understand what they’re saying half the time.
These musical numbers are even lazier in their animation. 95% of it isn’t new animation. Instead, these scenes are made up of clips from earlier in the movie, sometimes just a scene prior, or they’re completely random clips from the TV show from which this movie originated, Bump in the Night. I’ve never seen the original show before and I didn’t know the movie did come from a series before watching it, so these clips really confused the hell out of me. Even now that I do know of the series, I’m still very confused because the clips have absolutely nothing to do with the lyrics.
Why did they even have these musical numbers in there if obviously didn’t care about them in the slightest? Just to pad time to a reasonable movie length?
The best song in the lot is a redone version of ‘God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen’ made to be a military marching song for the snowmen in the North Pole. That one worked quite well. It rhymed, I could understand the lyrics, the song placement was good, and I got into the moment easily.
I will also give them props for having their own version of ‘Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel’ because finding animated Hanukkah stuff is pretty rare.
Overall, while it is a weird little movie, it did grow on me as it went on. It has a good sense of humor, it was a somewhat unique Christmas story, and it even had a good moral that you don’t typically see in Christmas movies for kids – You don’t need Santa to bring anything. You can exchange gifts with your family and friends and enjoy the act of giving while also receiving. Although, it is a bit of a double-edged sword in the message department because Bumpy stole Santa’s bag of toys and his sleigh (and hijacked his reindeer) but he didn’t really suffer any consequences for it besides losing all of his loot. He even got a present in the end from the closet monster.
The voice acting was very good with the talents of Jim Cummings as Bumpy and Destructo (the rule-enforcing robot who sounds like Duke Nukem for some reason) Rob Paulsen as Squish, and Gail Matthius as Molly.
Not sure I’ll ever visit the TV series, but I did have fun with the Christmas special, and if you’re in the market for some unique and off-color Christmas fun I suggest you seek it out too.
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