Man, Christmas can suck. Now, forget the whole commercialism vs. purity BS and face some frightening facts. More times than not, this holiday has had its way with you psychologically, and you've sat back and taken it like a French field marshal. Maybe it was that gift you never got, that prayed-for train set or argued-over air gun. Imagine how it messes with your mind to walk towards the tree on Xmas morning, and instead of seeing a Malibu Barbie dream house or a remote controlled racing car, a pair of itchy corduroy pantsor worse, a stupid stuffed monkeyis staring you in the somber face. What could have been an adventure in scale model railroad tycooning or blissful semi-automatic millimetered violent outbursts has turned into a trauma that no amount of eggnog can cure. Then as you get older, it only gets worse. The unwanted dress shirt becomes the obligatory necktie, which in turn, mutates into a strange combination of cured meats and cheeses from a kiosk near the mall exit (they're the airport gift of last minute shopping desperation). And it's no better for the ladies. Gal presents seem to shift from independent and sexy (perfume, jewelry) to redundant and domestic (a blender, a psychedelic scarf) over the course of the maturation process. Let's face it; Halloween has tricks, treats and lots of sweet meats. Easter can either get you right with God, or hopping down the funny bunny trail. Thanksgiving is a legalized, legitimate chance to get wasted on natural turkey Thai stick. But not even the Fourth of July, with its mandated drunkenness and national excuse for kids to play with matches, can equal the nastiness of St. Nick.
Thank the 'Birthday' Boy for The Bikini Bandits Save Christmas. This wickedly wonderful and exceptionally rude animated holiday display is like taking down the Tannenbaum, tearing it into shreds, and taking a whiz on it in front of the kiddies. It's a kick in the teeth to every excessive exhibition of seasonal greetings. It argues against the mass hysteria mawkishness of making sure the halls are decked, the angels on high have been heard, and all fideles have been adeste'd. Filled to the brim with the patented Bikini Bandits anarchy - except this time in a colorful, pop art pen and ink presentation - we witness such holly berry blasphemy as Santa getting a lap dance, the North Pole as a Playboy-style party mansion and voodoo zombie strippers. It's time to fire up the tool Yule log as those lewd ladies of semi-automatic sensuality defend the jolly old elf from what else? the craven claws of those corporate screwheads, the G-Mart gang. And this time, it's personal?
To describe what happens in The Bikini Bandits Save Christmas would take a Ph.D. in plotpoint deciphering, a sharp eye for suggested storytelling and a couple of copies of The Complete Works of Franz Kafka (who is quoted not once, but TWICE in this animated insanity). Basically, G-Mart wants to commercialize Christmas globally. Hanukah would have to haul ass and Ramadan would be right out. About the only December-based holiday that is safe is Kwanza, and that's because no one in the world community wants to travel over to the 'bad' side of town to confront the minorities. G-Mart will, however, use ghetto gansta Schooly B (voiced by rapper Schooly D) to capture a renegade reindeer rider. Seems that the gift-giver formerly known as Kris Kringle entered into a deal with the leaders of the entire planet to play poster boy for the new cool Yule. He would get a new muscle car "sleigh", and some international exclusivity. G-Mart would get "the magic sack", a portal through time that allows Santa to carry all the toys for the holiday. But Santa regrets his agreement, gets loaded, steals the sleigh and the bag and ends up in a strip club. There, he runs into a voodoo priestess, a little crackhead named Bitch and his daughter...Heather, the Bikini Bandit? That's right, our lead lady is indeed, St. Nick's kid, and she wants to help her Dad. But they must first fight off evil G-Mart underlings, Schooly and his crew, as well as those zombie exotic dancers. Then there's the whole Russian prison subplot where the former Communists are holding the real Father Christmas hostage and...ouch! My brain hurts.
Christmas specials fall into three very distinct categories. Naturally, you have the celebrity based broadcast, a simple hour of songs, skits and celebration, usually homogenized to the point of overt blandness. Then there are the religious themed shows, movies or dramas depicting the power of faith and the festive holiday season to right wrongs, save marriages, reconnect family/lovers and cure most major diseases or at least stave them off until after the final credits roll. Settling down somewhere in the middle are the animated/cartoon cavalcades, the Rankin-Bass, Christmas Is conundrum in which divergent elements like God, product placement and hackneyed history lessons coagulate into a pool of pandering puke. Unless your talking about Hardrock, Coco and Joe, or the indomitable, if depressing sprite, Suzy Snowflake, most of the holiday based musings blow fruitcake chunks (Bad Santa being a nice, naughty exception). More or less wholly responsible for unreasonable childhood expectations, advanced adult despondence and a corrupt combination of over-commercialization and mangled materialism, Xmas has been fudged, forged and forgotten as a period of goodwill toward men and peace on Earth. Instead, it's that classic line from "Silver Bells" about the shoppers rushing home with their treasures modified a billion times over and dictated by a specific, spendthrift corporate mentality. If you don't buy the latest fad gadget or playground panacea, you're a bad parent, a deprived child and a retch of a human being. Happy Holidays!
That's why it's refreshing, if not necessarily natural, to find the Bikini Bandits bandying about this bell jingling, hall decked horse crap. Steve Grasse's quasi-brilliant dissection of the old male dominated cultural ideals meshed with impulsive pop psychology is an uncultivated, depraved ride, just the thing to polish those shiny balls hanging from the tree. The fact that he's resorted to a classic Christmas special conceit the cartoon is just par for the kick-ass course. There is something very strange about seeing the psychedelic, psychotic universe of the Bikini Bandits rendered in basic PC paintings. Obviously forged in this format to avoid those pesky production problems like a big budget and realistic special effects, The Bikini Bandits Save Christmas recalls the feeling one gets after an all night eggnog binge. It's a combination platter of sweet and sour, sublime and slow-witted, all cast in a new medium to emphasize the nudity and the bloodshed lacking in the original 9-minute shorts. Wildly inventive, overtly preachy and occasionally downright offensive, this is the anti-Frosty, a potent antidote for the sugarplum poison poured out over everyone every post-Thanksgiving HECK, post LABOR DAY season. Overall, The Bikini Bandits Save Christmas is slightly detached from its subject. The scope here is large and the attempts at addressing all aspects of what makes Xmas so shrill are front and center. But while this is definitely Noel based material, with Santa, Father Christmas and the evil empiric entity, G-Mart all taking aim at the redolent issues inherent in figgy pudding, something is not quite right. And the answer, oddly enough, lies in the flawed format chosen.
The Bikini Bandits, in non-animated form, are a clever construct, a real life cartoon taken to metaphysical extremes. Locked into their own private world where the never-ending battle against corporate enslavement becomes the sole purpose in life along with sex, crime and rock and roll creator Steve Grasse has pushed the limits of short film fabrication by constantly experimenting with tone and technique. As a result, we get brilliant dissolves, artistically extreme editing and a fabulous use of imagery to highlight or infer thematic material. True, when you boil it down to the basics, this is pre-teen pud pulling product at its most self-abusing. But Grasse has a message and agenda. Bizarrely, it doesn't quite work in pen and ink form. Adding hand drawn tits and beautifully executed ballistics to the already impressionistic nature of the series may up the "F*ck Yeah!" factor for the Bikini Bandits, but it removes a layer of symbolism that the atomfilm entities rely on. Grasse has handled epic in the past ("The Golden Rod" trilogy, the trip to Hell) and the notion of what this holiday experience would look like with the actual actors (Schooly D is great, as is Tool leader Maynard James Keenan as a Mohawked Father Christmas) boggles the brain. Bad production values and lame effects are part of the Bandits mantra, so why they were skipped here seems suspect. Besides, Corey Feldman could have shown up to add his fallen idol freakishness to the mix (perhaps as a moonwalking S.W.A.T. team member?). And no amount of painted cell silliness can match his naturally spastic dancing.
If you can ignore the manner in which animation undermines the Bandits measured message, you'll really love The Bikini Bandits Save Christmas. It is as funny and as clever as Bikini Bandits: Briefs, Shorts and Panties and ranks right up there with the montage made The Bikini Bandits Experience as a fresh way of recycling this Internet oddity. Voodoo is always a welcome addition to any entertainment outing (frankly there is just not enough Vodoun, Candomble, Lucumi, Macumba, and Yoruba in popular culture that is, if you discount the career of Christina Aguilera) and the introduction of zombie strippers is classic Bandits brashness. The actual cartoon character design is distinct, and the constant jabs at anime devices (doe eyes, gaping mega-smiles) are hilarious. Those looking for the deeper meaning in all this poster art T&A need search no further than Father Christmas's confessional to head Bandit Heather. This long, eloquent piece about how corporate consciousness has mangled and manipulated the traditional holiday experience, in conjunction with the laser-sharp conversations between the head of G-Mart and a bumbling, bullying President of the US (one of the best elements in the film he looks like George Bush, but talks like a combination of Clinton and Reagan) the tainted tinsel theme is blatantly obvious. But you also need escape, and the random bits of rifle fire, in combination with politically incorrect humor, make The Bikini Bandits Save Christmas a scintillating cup of wanton wassail.
Still, one can't help but mentally reconstruct this colorful chaos into a physical world reality during the run of this animated anarchy. Who would play Bitch, the bad-toothed bumbler who suddenly finds himself the official G-Mart symbol for Christmas? How would Grasse realize some of the Matrix-style bullet time moments with actual bullet-time? Would the original Bandits be back, or would the director push the Bikini legend limits even further by introducing a new gaggle of gals to replace his hot-rodding honeys? We may never know, and frankly, that might be best. The Bikini Bandits have always defied expectations, thwarted authority and balked at the suggestion of staying the same course. So a cartoon seems a natural extension of the Bandits cosmos - a realm where massively retarded Amish kids can be porn stars, a homosexual clown named...Homo (naturally) can be a supervillain and the cops are just one panty-sniffing second behind the badass babes. No other celebration needs the swift kick in the kippers like Christmas. It's gotten too big for its basic britches and threatens to overwhelm the entire planet with its fake fun platitudes. While they may not actually "save" the holiday from itself, the Bikini Bandits at least understand that a good Saturnalia beat down is in order. And they're just the swimsuit-wearing wenches to smack that lump of coal where it counts.
While not always artistically sound (some of the drawings are sloppy and strange) the overall visual look of The Bikini Bandits Save Christmas is highly cinematic. The 1.33:1 full frame image here presents a super-saturated color palette that is brilliantly conceived and captured. The entire disc has an almost-pristine concept to its visuals, without any primary hue horrors like bleeding or flaring.
Utilizing all manner of musical cues punk, metal, R&B and funk the soundtrack to The Bikini Bandits Save Christmas can be a crazy cornucopia of beats. Thankfully, Image provides the DVD with an exceptional Dolby Digital Stereo mix that accentuates the aural attributes brilliantly. Of note is an amazing hip-hop track that samples The Clash's version of "Brand New Cadillac". Slowed down to an ominous crawl, and featuring the late, great Joe Strummer's graveling growl of "Drive!", it is used as Schooly's theme, and works wonderfully within the film's focus.
Presented in a three-disc set (one of which is a 4 song CD EP), The Bikini Bandits Save Christmas has some moderate bonus material success. Disc 2 features a 22-minute live action holiday special featuring about 14 Bandits (where did all these extra weapons loving women come from?), a couple of drunken Santas and various goofy guests stars. Of particular note is the prop comedy catastrophe known as The Legendary Wid (so not funny as to be uproarious) and a "legnog" recipe from Sheriff Harry Nudzak (he makes Martha Stewart look positively criminal. Oh, wait...). Though it can drag at times the "F*ck Christmas" singalong is kind of lame - the overall tone is irreverent and completely in keeping with the spirit of such spurious TV traumas. The second disc also contains a couple of "Yule Log" TV screensavers (reminiscent of the "fake fireplace" videos from a few years back). Without spoiling the scenario too badly, let's just say that there are certain images of something long, brown and twisted that should be kept behind closed doors (or commode lids). And if you like the music in either Saves Christmas or the live action Special, you'll really enjoy the CD though four songs (including an "edited" version of "F*ck Christmas") seems like a rather meager musical offering.
Christmas used to be a time of togetherness and tithing, an open opportunity to take in large quantities of homemade cookies and artery clogging cuisine without a care for the caloric consequence. Currier and Ives envisioned snow-covered fields covered in white-blanketed wonder, and the spirit of giving far outweighed the transgression of covetousness. Today, all of this is gone, or at least diluted so significantly as to have lost all merriment meaning. Between the daily trips to Wal-Mart to continue the arduous process of filling out Johnny and Jenny's greedy gift list, to the miscreant march toward office parties, house warmings and family reunions, jars of homemade piccalilli stuffed inside your shirt, all the fun has been flushed out of the so-called festivities. Xmas is no longer a joy, but a heavy, horrid yoke dragging down the spirit of everyone it bad-touches. While there's not much hope of them actually salvaging the holidays, at least the Bikini Bandits have the right idea. With a great big middle finger extended to the entire, aggravating enterprise, our T-backed bee-aches want to take on the merchandising 'man' and destroy his domain, one brightly colored ball at a time. The Bikini Bandits Save Christmas may not relieve your Visa-induced stress, or return the season to its humbler, hummable roots. But at least we have one Christmas cartoon that features hot homicidal gals going postal on the proceedings. That is, until Ms. Snowflake starts packing heat.
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