Bad Santa (2003)


Ebert:1/2 Rolling Stone: TV Guide:1/2

Warning, minor plot points revealed!

Remember when you're out with the wife and kids buying the family Christmas tree this season to stop by the movie theater on the way home and treat the whole family to Bad Santa!   It's guaranteed to please.  Especially if your kids are fond of the word "f*ck" and would appreciate a hilarious scene where Santa is nailing a fat woman in the department store dressing room and telling her "...after I'm done you ain't gonna sh*t right for a week!"  Oh yeah, Santa is also drunk, covered in urine (both his and the kids who sit on his lap) and puking most of the time and his only motivation each season is to rob the store that foolishly hires him.  

Hopefully I have made it clear that this film is not for everyone and probably not a good one for the little kids (although teenagers will probably like it.)  In fact, like Kill Bill, this film will have a very small niche of people who will actually enjoy it.  And once again, I am part of that niche.  Mind you , I didn't love the movie but it did have enough funny stuff to push it onto the list of comedies that I enjoyed.   The most redeeming quality about the film is that it is true to itself from beginning to end.  Even when presented with numerous opportunities to betray it's spirit, it never falters and remains crass, rude and offensive.  No lessons are learned, no revelations, epiphanies or awakenings.  This is not It's a Wonderful Life.

Bad Santa is the tale of an alcoholic degenerate named Willie and his partner in crime dwarf, Marcus.  Every year they get a job at a different mall as Santa and on the last day of work they hide inside and rob the place.  This one score gets the elf and his mail order bride through the next year until Christmas and gets Willie enough to drink away the year down in Florida.  Then they meet up somewhere for their next season's work.  Willie's drinking and screw-up are getting worse and the elf that runs the show is losing patience.  To make matters worse Willie has decided to crash at the home of a lonely pathetic needy fat rich kid and has hitched up with a bartender girlfriend who has a sexual Santa fetish.  Meanwhile the corrupt store detective has become wise to their scam and is insisting on a 50% cut of this year's take.  

Bad Santa is a role that Billy Bob Thornton was born to play.  I don't know if it's necessarily in character for him but physically he perfectly fits the profile with his skinny, unkempt, stubbly appearance.  Even when you see him at an awards show or on a late night TV talk show it looks like he was just roused from gutter outside on the street.  This is not to say I don't like him.  In, fact I do like Billy Bob.  I loved his masterpiece Sling Blade and I enjoyed him as the mission commander in Armageddon.  And I also respect him for his ability to somehow scam one of the hottest women in America (Angelina Jolie) into marrying him for a few years.  Tony Cox, the dwarf/elf has had a prolific career so far.  He's probably best known as the limo driver who steals Jim Carrey's wife and father's his children in Me, Myself & Irene.  He's a funny little midget and that pretty much sum up Tony Cox.  The store detective is played by Bernie Mac.  He's kind of funny but I have no love for him or his comedy.  He's one of those comedians who probably peaked as a class clown in high school and was misled into making a career of it.  John Ritter has a few brief scenes as the store manager but he is woefully underused in what would be one of his last roles.  Cloris Leachman plays the comatose grandma of the fat kid, Brett Kelly, who Thornton's Santa shacks up with.  Leachman does little more than stumble around talking about sandwiches and the fat kid is funny but we're laughing at him, not with him. 

Bad Santa is a funny movie and will probably attain cult status someday.  It will be like a midnight movie for the holidays.  Except for the South Park Movie, it might also win the record for most swearing.  But mostly, if you want to see a guy in a Santa suit doing just about everything you never thought you'd see a guy in a Santa suit doing, then this is the movie for you!