Exploiting the Archives Week: This Looks Terrible! Rapsittie Street Kids: Believe in Santa
As a pop culture writer, I live for the thrill of discovery. I live to discover art, but more often, and more importantly, trash. But not just any trash. No, I live for transcendent trash. I live for garbage that gets under your skin and infects your soul. I live for the kind of exquisitely unself-conscious trash that needs to be shared with the world, if only so that readers can share my pain and confusion.
In other words, I live for stuff like Rapsittie Street Kids: Believe in Santa. I was recently introduced to this jarringly terrible abomination with the promise that it was a Foodfight!-level shit show. They were not wrong.
The problems begin with the title. I’m not sure whether “Rapsittie” is an illiterate take on “Rhapsody” or “Rap City” but neither is appropriate. Oh sure, luckless protagonist Rick E does favor us with some rhymes but Santa loses interest in Rick and his embarrassing rhymes almost immediately, and with good reason. “Rhapsody”, meanwhile, would be an awfully grandiose phrase for a project that should have been rejected by any local public access station for never rising to the level of “amateur” yet astonishingly aired on the WB a single time in 2002 and then was lost and buried, not unlike the Star Wars Holiday Special or E.T: The Game.
Another minor weakness of the title is that it is almost impossible to pronounce correctly or even spell correctly. What did the English language ever do to these creators to make them want to abuse it so viciously with words like, “Rapsittie?”
This leads to the next jarringly inaccurate word: Street. In pop culture, “Street” generally means “Urban” and/or Black but there are no fucking streets in Rapsittie Street Kids: Believe in Santa. Every character seems to live in a giant house and the broad, tree-lined streets are so devoid of people that the special might as well take place immediately after the Rapture.
Rapsittie Street Kids: Believe in Santa is such a shitty bait and switch that it doesn’t even feature any fucking Santa. Oh, sure, we see a silhouette of the man in red, but we do not see the man himself. Finally, the title is inaccurate because Santa, as we know him, is largely the creation of Coca-Cola’s marketers.
This brings us to the animation. Imagine the very worst computer animation you’ve ever seen. Now multiply that awfulness by a thousand times and you still only have a vague sense of eyeball-peeling hideousness of the animation.
You know how viscerally unnerving the scene in The Shining is of the dude in the ragged bear suit in a compromising position with that debauched reveler is? That’s how disturbing the animation in Rapsittee Street Kids Believe in Santa is from the first frame to the last. Words honestly cannot do justice to the infinite horror of Rapsittee Street Kids Believe in Santa. You need to experience it yourself (and can, with the video link at the top of this article), although for your own mental health, you should probably stop after five minutes or so.
It’s tempting to say that the character design and animation are at the level of video game Cutscenes but that’s giving the film too much credit. It wishes it was as sophisticated and cinematic as a video game cutscene. Comparing the animation in Rapsittie Street Kids: Believe in Santa to primitive cutscenes is a grievous insult to video games.
The movie opens with protagonist Rick E ostensibly “rapping” an opening song but the movements of his lips and the rhythm of what he's saying don’t match at all. You’d have to go back to Godzilla movies to see such terrible dubbing.
I believe the final lines of the opening song are, “Though it’s cold outside it’s warm in my soul/Gotta get a gift to keep me from the cold” but the delivery is so simultaneously rushed and mumbly that I still can barely understand what he’s saying even after re-watching the sequence ten times. He very well could have rapped, or rather "rapped", “Though it’s cold outside it’s warm in my soul/Gotta get a gift to keep me from getting coal.”
For some reason, the makers of this rap-themed Christmas special decided to cast, as their lead, an actor who is both terrible at rap by any standard, and also frequently incomprehensible. That was an odd decision, and, honestly, one that did not pay off.
In what qualifies as a joke here, almost, Rick’s grandmother (the only other African-American character in the special) is “comically” incomprehensible in a Pootie Tang/Boomhauer kind of way. Yet Rick E., whose identity is wrapped up in being a good rapper, is only slightly easier to understand than his deliberately unintelligible grandparent.
Rick E. has a huge crush on Nicole, a snotty, perfect rich girl for whom malls aren’t just places to buy crap but rather sacred cathedrals. At various times, Nicole, who, incidentally, is the romantic female lead we’re eventually rooting for utters the following sentiments:
“Does Santa shop at the mall? No! So that makes me perfect, since all of my presents come from the mall.”
“Of course! It’s sold in the malls, so I know they spent a lot!”
“My gift is the best. I bought it at the mall.”
Nicole is a horrible, horrible little girl who isn’t just mean: she’s downright verbally abusive. Rick E. gives Nicole a ratty old bear his “mama” gave him “before the angels took her” but she tosses it out because it’s not an expensive gift from one of her beloved malls, ignorant of its incredible significance.
Then again, if I were Rick E, I would think twice before giving my most sacred possession, and what appears to be his only memento from my dead mother, to a cruel, abusive popular girl I have a doomed, one-sided crush on. Nicole eventually sees the error of her ways. She morphs instantly from bad to good, from cruel bully to sensitive friend.
Kids is like A Talking Cat!?! in its pacing, in that includes an enormous amount of dead time that serves only to run out the clock. After our disturbing looking protagonist discovers that his three coins aren’t enough to buy him any toys, for example, there’s maybe fifteen to twenty seconds of him walking dejectedly home.
You don’t need that! Unless it’s a crazy art movie, no film or TV special needs to show its characters walking or driving from one place to another unless they’re in a car accident while driving, or kidnapped while walking. If nothing even remotely eventful happens when a character is moving from one place to another, cut that shit out.
Then there’s Rick’s sole friend and sidekick Smithy. Smithy’s defining feature is his contempt for women. He’s a pint-sized misogynist who thinks girls are gross, and yucky, and a waste of Rick’s time. He's supposed to be comic relief but he’s so insufferable that I wanted to enter the world of the special so I could bully him myself.
Smithy is a future Men’s Rights activist/Incel who tells a now appropriately mortified Nicole,”You killed the bear! Now it’s gone to trash heaven and poor Ricky is going to cry because of you.” Trash heaven: what a wonderfully evocative phrase to describe this production.
Speaking of bullies, Rapsittee Kids Believe in Santa has more than its share and they are characteristically incoherent. There’s a stoner/surfer type, for example, who’s mostly a bully but also seems to have a certain sympathy for Rick and his dead mom and all.
This surfer dude says things that make no sense within the context of the film, like when he inexplicably admonishes the special’s sad sack loser, “Hang 10, Ricky!” but this weirdly memorable supporting character’s true moment of reverse-glory is when he sees Ricky grooving to the music and hypothesizes, “He probably has music in his head the way he’s rocking back and forth.”
There are several songs in Rapsittee Kids Believe in Santa, each worse than the last, but I can say with certainty that these tunes will not have you rocking back and forth to the music in your head.
The other bullies are equally perplexing in their taunts. One bully references a time when Rick fell while decorating a tree, taunting, “Hey Ricky, tell me the next time you want to fall down again. I’ll be happy to shove you in the right direction.”
Even with all of its padding, Rapsittee Street Kids Believe in Santa is 43 minutes long, and five of those minutes are devoted to the credits. Considering how infinitely embarrassing every aspect of this project is, I half-expected to see “Alan Smithee” pop up again and again in the credits. If I were involved with Rapsittee Street Kids: Believe in Santa I know I would not want my name associated with it. Hell, I’m kind of embarrassed I even watched the special in the first place.
Alan Smithee shockingly does not show up in the credits but a whole bunch of people who should know better do, and also Clint Howard. The insanely overqualified voice cast includes Mark Hamill, Nancy Cartwright, the voice of Bart Simpson, voiceover superstar Grey DeLisle, Jodi Benson (the voice of Ariel in The Little Mermaid) and Paige O’ Hara (Belle in Beauty and the Beast).
Alas, not even the combined efforts of the folks who voiced Ariel, Belle, Luke Skywalker, The Joker and Bart Simpson can hide the painfully amateurish nature of this bizarrely misconceived project. I have seen a whole lot of shit in my day. That’s kind of my brand. But I have never seen this particular brand of insane and terrible before. This special deserves to be remembered and honored for being so world-class insane.
Rapsittie Street Kids: Believe in Santa is so astonishingly god-awful that the film-ending dedication feels more like an insult than an honor. If I died and Rapsittie Street Kids was dedicated to me, I’d haunt the fuck out of everyone involved until they dedicated it to someone else.
The special’s final insult is a mid-credits promise that, as with Mac & Me, we’ll be seeing more of these nightmares masquerading as Street Kids. “My Name’s Jenna, and I’ll be back with the Easter Bunny!” squeals a particularly obnoxious voiceover artist, shamelessly shilling for a product that would never exist.
The arctic response to Rapsittie Street Kids: Believe in Santa ensured that its proposed sequel, Rapsittie Street Kids: A Bunny's Tale would never see the light of day. Don’t mourn what might have been. Do not waste your pity on the geniuses behind the Rapsittie Street Kids. Rapsittie Street Kids: Believe in Santa might have been buried and the special’s toxic reception might have killed Rapsittie Street Kids: A Bunny's Tale but neither project is really dead, you see: the angels simply took them up to heaven so that they could be with mama.
Need more commentary on the this abomination? Oh yes you do. Listen to Nathan and Cliff talk about it on the third episode of Nathan Rabin's Happy Cast, which will eventually be found here: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/nathan-rabins-happy-cast/id1312945471?mt=2
Support Nathan Rabin’s Happy Place and gleeful excavation of deeply buried pop culture treasures over at https://www.patreon.com/nathanrabinshappyplace