Finally, a Christmas movie that properly conveys the spirit of the season – Bad Santa!
Directed by Terry Zwigoff (Crumb, Ghost World), Bad Santa stars Billy Bob Thornton, Tony Cox, Bernie Mac, John Ritter and Lauren Graham. Joel and Ethan Coen were executive producers of the film, and it was John Ritter’s last movie before his untimely death in 2003. I PVR’d it from the W Movies channel.
In this film, Billy Bob plays Willie T. Stokes, a safe-cracking con man who is pretty much a walking train wreck. He drinks, swears, pees his pants, has sex in public, screams at kids and let’s just say that personal hygiene is nowhere near the top of his list of priorities. Who better to work as a department store Santa during the holiday season? You see, Willie and his partner Marcus (Cox) run an annual scam in which they case major retail outlets working as Santa and elf, then they rob the store blind on Christmas Eve when the safe is crammed full of consumers’ cash. Willie spends the year drinking away the money he made from the job, and they repeat the cycle the following December.
This time around, Willie is worse than ever. His drinking, swearing and public sex make him the target of Store Manager Bob Chipeska (Ritter) who voices his concerns to store security chief Gin Slagel (Mac) in some of the best scenes in the movie. As I mentioned, this was Ritter’s final film, and considering that Bernie Mac also died prematurely in his 50s, these scenes were both hilarious and chilling to watch.
Things begin to turn around for Willie as he and Marcus case their latest target. Enter Sue (Graham), Willie’s love interest of sorts, a bartender with a serious Santa fetish. And enter the Kid, otherwise known as Thurman Merman, who believes Willie is the real Santa and befriends him in an annoyingly sincere way. As these two relationships grow, we start to see Willie change (albeit marginally) for the better. These two give him a reason to care about his life.
I wasn’t kidding when I said that this film conveyed the spirit of the season – it absolutely does! If a complete piece-of-shit person like Willie Stokes can feel the Christmas spirit, anyone can. This movie is funny, disgusting and heart-warming all at the same time. The performances are outstanding (Billy Bob is really on his game here) the dialogue is snappy and interesting, and it’s just an all around good movie. Not for kids though. It’s not even remotely appropriate for children, and I include in that any pre-teens that may be in the household.
I just watched this movie for the first time last year, and I can’t believe that it took me 10 years to get around to it. Bad Santa is an instant classic, and it’s worked its way into my annual Christmas movie list. I highly recommend it.
Next up: The Muppet Christmas Carol