Give Us the Pen, Clark

santajaws
Rotten Tomatoes

Hallmark might not agree, but holiday movies can be more than bounteous feasts, warm sweaters, and old friendships renewed. 2018’s Santa Jaws is proof positive that anything can be Christmas movie fodder, even vicious man-eating sharks.

Cody (Reid Miller) is a fantastic comic book artist who has come up with a new comic strip, Santa Jaws, about a guy who saves his ladylove from a villain dressed as Santa. His tattoos even say Feliz Navidad. Well, Hero Guy takes him out with a mighty kick and Evil Santa is eaten by a shark, who then absconds with the baddie’s Santa hat on its dorsal fin.

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So not kidding about this. Just wait, though.

As Cody puts the finishing touches on his masterpiece with a super-fancy pen his grandpa gave him, Clark (Scott Allen Perry), the local comic book store owner promises to sell Cody’s comic to the next interested person and that’s that. Oh, and he’s having a Christmas Eve party for all his favorite customers and Cody is, of course, invited.

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Only Cody is grounded for playing one too many pranks, the last straw being an embarassing cartoon he posted of his school’s principal on social media. Somehow, though, he manages to sneak out for a fishing expedition at the dock with Papa Joe (Ritchie Montgomery), and improbably, Papa gets eaten by a shark after spilling his eggnog in the water.

Naturally Cody puts two and two together and sneaks out of his house again, making a beeline for Clark’s comic book store, where he demands to know who bought his Santa Jaws comic. Funnily enough, it’s Jena (Courtney Lauren Cummings) the girl next door who Cody’s been crushing on. It’s not at all creepy that Cody waits for her to come out of her her house with his binoculars poised. Not at all.

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Long story short, Cody starts building a team of Jena, his friends, his new aunt Georgia (Haviland Stillwell) and his football star brother, Josh (Andrew Marroquin) to take out this shark, which has also eaten Uncle Mike (Miles Doleac). They figure out pretty quickly that the shark is attracted to Christmas stuff, so they naturally think Christmas stuff is the shark’s Kryptonite. They play Christmas Muzak on their phones and put explosives in Christmas ornaments, the latter of which the shark chomps on as if they’re candy. Wrapping twinkle lights around spears and other weapons doesn’t do anything but land on the surface of the water. Josh even comes up with the bright idea of impaling the thing on a giant candy cane, but all that does is turn the shark into a narwhal.

The group also figures out that Papa Joe’s pen is what started it all, but the problem is that they have to get it back from Clark, who’s used it to draw himself a voluptuous Russian girlfriend. The group chases him to the dock, where they yell, “Give us the pen, Clark,” over and over like they’re at Mount Doom, and finally the shark decides to munch on a grabby comic book store owner.

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Cody’s parents get in on the act as well. They, Cody, and Josh stuff some cooked turkeys with gunpowder and launch them at the shark, who doesn’t care, and the turkeys certainly don’t explode because everyone obviously forgot the old adage about keeping powder dry. Will anything be left of our intrepid group by Christmas morning? Hmmm.

The thing with Santa Jaws is that it knows what it is and it has a mirror held up firmly in its face so it doesn’t forget, as if that’s possible. It’s got a sense of humor about itself and knows it’s a low-budget wonder, although “wonder” is a nebulous term in its case. It knows the shark looks more fake than any of Spielberg’s and punctuates that knowledge with eyes that are red like Rudolph’s nose and teeth festively sparkly like a Christmas tree. Even the shark becoming a narwhal doesn’t faze anyone for long. And it’s truly stunning how fast Cody’s mother can produce a flock of perfectly cooked turkeys that just happen to be cool enough to stuff with gunpowder.

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It’s to Santa Jaws’s credit that it committs to navel-gazing so enthusiastically because it would be an awful movie otherwise. Well, it is an awful movie, but its honesty softens the blow a little bit. It doesn’t follow its own rules, but I can’t give too many specifics without spoiling things. Even a movie as mediocre as this one deserves that much.

Other than that, Santa Jaws is kinda hard to connect with on any lasting level, as if anyone would really want to, because none of these characters are really likeable, at least at first, with the exception of Papa Joe who really loves his egg nog. And maybe Aunt Georgia even though she spends her first scenes talking like an Instagram post. Is it mean to want the shark to chow down on its next victim? I don’t know. When characters exist to be shark kibble, sympathy is fleeting, especially when they’re as sparsely drawn as this crowd.

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So yeah, Santa Jaws is a movie to be laughed at, winced at, and probably forgotten (Well, except for the shark wearing a Santa hat on its dorsal fin. And Evil Santa with his Feliz Navidad tats), but at least it’s unique. Or something like that.

Another Christmas movie review is coming up tomorrow. No hints except one: “O Canada.” As always, thanks for reading, all, and I hope to see you mañana…


Santa Jaws is available to own on DVD or to stream on Amazon.

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If you’re enjoying what you see on Taking Up Room, please look for additional content on Substack, where you’ll find both free and subscriber-only articles. I publish every Wednesday and Saturday.

2 thoughts on “Give Us the Pen, Clark

  1. Oh, thank you for taking one for the team, rebecca! I’ve been curious about Santa Jaws for a little while but I just haven’t brought myself to watch it. Now I don’t know if I really need to, but I guess Christmas is still a week away.
    By the way, a very fun and hilarious review!

    Liked by 1 person

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