Published on December 1st, 2003 | by Erich Becker0
Review: Bad Santa
With all the family fare at the box office this month its nice to see a studio go up against the droves of people heading off to the movies over Thanksgiving and giving them a film so anti-family I smiled with glee knowing I wasn’t going to be in a crowded theater surrounded by screaming kids. Instead I got old women who had to read the credits out loud to each other to make sure they saw them, and a group of people who don’t know the first thing about theater edict. Still, all of that wasn’t going to ruin a good time, and Bad Santa shows us that even Jolly Ol’ St. Nick can have a wild, drunken side.
Willie (Billy Bob Thornton) and Marcus (Tony Cox) have a good thing going. They get a mall to hire them on as Santa and his elf, respectably, scope out the security system, and break into a department store safe. This year’s scam is in Arizona (albeit a fake mall), of all places, but this time stealing Santa will have to deal with an up-tight manager (the late John Ritter), and a nosey security guard (Bernie Mac). Through all of this Willie eventually begins shacking up with a kid (Brett Kelly) and banging a bartender (Lauren Graham) who has a “thing” for Santa Claus.
The story, by no means, is the movie’s strongest suit, but Thornton’s portrayal of an alcoholic, over-sexed old man who hates kids and just wants his money is, by far, the highest point of the film. There is just something about a guy dressed up as Santa vomiting, pissing himself, and having unconventional sex with big & tall women that makes you laugh out loud. Not succumbing to the lowest denominator, the film isn’t a gross out comedy, even though it does contain a great many gags that could be attributed to such a genre film. Rather the delivery of lines makes this film funny as Willie has to cope with living with a kid who idolizes him and keep himself from destroying himself.
There are a few running gags throughout the film such as a clueless grandma who takes great pleasure in making sandwiches and the many trials Willie’s drinking brings on. Some of the best jokes are given away in the trailers (like always) but there is still a great deal in this film to get you laughing.
Many may be offended by how the filmmakers portray the image of Santa Claus, but only at one time does Willie have on the “full” Santa suit to the point where it might hide his persona, throughout the rest of the film he slowly looses interest and the desire to look anything like the jolly, fat one. This film may be the reason Santa and Satan are so close together in spelling.
As mentioned before the story isn’t anywhere near the quality you would expect from the winter’s awards hopefuls, but its nice to see somewhat write down a semi-intelligent, funny script that raises the middle finger to award fishing and comes away on a higher horse than it rode in on. Bad Santa is the very definition of what can happen when a few guys get together and decide to release some pent up anger on the present-bearer, but I couldn’t think of a more funny way to see a guy in a red suit toss empty whiskey bottles at $70,000 sports cars.
It’s not PC, and I couldn’t think of any other way I would want it to be. If you are looking for a funny, dark comedy this holiday season this should hold you over till the epic that is The Return of the King hits theaters in a few short weeks.