Ho! Ho! Ho!
Publisher: Sony Pictures
Tue, 19 April 2005
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It took AGES for this to make it out in Australia, but that's not really anything new is it? Bad Santa is now available here on DVD and I'm very glad of that because it rocks. If you like your comedy pitch black then this is one movie you will want to check out right away. However, the easily (or even not-so-easily) offended and those hoping for more "traditional" Christmas-themed fare most definitely ought to give it a miss. In the end though, it actually turns out to be quite touching.
Billy Bob Thornton plays Willie T. Stokes; an alcoholic, foul mouthed, perverted and bitter mess of a man, with virtually no redeeming qualities whatsoever. Willie works as a department store Santa, but he is only in the business for the criminal opportunities it presents him with. Each Christmas Eve, Willie and his "elf" (midget partner-in-crime Marcus (Tony Cox)) crack the store safe and make off with their own holiday "gifts". Their latest planned annual heist gets a little more complicated however, due to a suspicious store manager (the late John Ritter) and a wily mall detective (Bernie Mac). Willie also finds himself getting involved with a woman named Sue (Lauren Graham) who has a kinky sexual attraction to Santa Claus, as well as an outcast 8-year-old kid (Brett Kelly) who choses to believe Willie is the real Santa and loves him despite his constantly despicable behaviour.
Bad Santa was written by Glen Ficarra and John Requa. It was directed by Terry Zwigoff and I'll be sure to keep an eye out for his work in future, because he seems to choose some interesting projects. Zwigoff also directed Ghost World and although I didn't love that one personally, I thought it was very well made and worth a look. There's a bit of geek trivia linking Ghost World to Lost in Translation and Bad Santa. Ghost World starred Scarlett Johansson, who became a pretty big star not long after; thanks to her performance in the highly successful Lost in Translation. Bill Murray had signed on to play the role of Willie in Bad Santa, but he dropped out to instead take the co-lead in Lost in Translation. What does it all mean? Nothing really, just some more useless information, but I'm always happy to share!
|If you look closely you can see the wet patch on his trousers |
Billy Bob is absolutely perfect as Willie. Let's face it; with a name like Billy Bob and looking the way he does, he's automatically pretty well suited to playing these "white trash" types of characters. But he's also an extremely good actor and that talent once again is in evidence here. Willie is a darkly hilarious character to watch in so many ways. He's an obnoxious drunkard who just says and does whatever he happens to feel like doing and often he's just too wasted to have much control at all over his actions (including his bodily functions at times). The results are often disturbing, but usually also very funny. There's just something so wrong about seeing a guy in a Santa suit behaving so disgustingly and that is exactly what makes it all the more humorous. Like when a child is sitting on Willie's knee and telling him what toy he wants for Christmas and he replies with "What the f*#k is that?" I can't help but crack up. Incidentally, the number of times the F-bomb gets used in this movie is extremely high… especially for a Christmas flick!
John Ritter, as the bewildered yet suspicious store manager (in one of his final performances before his untimely death), has this great understated delivery that makes all of his lines seem twice as funny. Tony Cox (who you may remember from Me, Myself and Irene as the little dude who beats up Jim Carey with nunchucks) is excellent as the disgruntled Marcus and you can tell he is enjoying the chance to perform a more significant role (as there aren't really many opportunities for a man of his stature to get good movie parts). Brett Kelly is terrific as the sweet hearted, chubby loser of a kid (who, as we are shown late in the movie, has the outstandingly awful name Thurman Merman). The whole cast does a great job as a matter of fact.
There's much more to the movie than just cheap laughs. For instance, the relationships that develop between Willie and Sue and (even more so) Willie and the kid are intriguing to watch. Willie has had a pretty awful life, which goes a long to explaining how he ended up such a mess, and he never really has been loved. So to suddenly have people choosing to love him almost unconditionally is a totally new experience for him. It does bring about some uplifting character development towards the end of the film. It never gets sappy or "Hollywood" though and the result is all the more effective because of that.
|The dude sure knows how to make an entrance |
The extras included are not what could be described as extensive. The making of featurette is worth a look and there are some deleted scenes and pretty funny outtakes, but that's about it. The visuals and audio of the DVD are fine, at least I didn't notice any problems. But I tend not to really always notice that kind of stuff anyway, to be honest.
Bad Santa is a very good movie with great, but extremely dark, humour and some subtle (and non-preachy) social commentary. It is not for everyone though. Some will find it highly distasteful and offensive; there's an abundance of swearing, sexual references and edgy material in this one. And some people may just not care for Bad Santa's style. The dialogue and nuances of the film that I find so hysterical might not work as well for others. So, unless you automatically find the premise appealing you might be best off renting it first to see whether or not you feel it is worth a purchase. Personally, I believe it is certainly worth adding to the collection. I have happily watched it a few times already and that's usually a good enough indication of quality for me.
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More articles by Hillelman
Almost the opposite of an typical christmas movie, but underneath it all there's still some niceness to be found in the end.