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Bad Santa (2003)

Comedy movie directed by Terry Zwigoff

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"Mommy! Santa smells like beer!"

  • Jun 16, 2009
Why is the idea of a boozing and lusting Santa Claus funny?  Because he's the last one we'd suspect of debauchery?  A sweet symbol of most of our childhoods at one of the happiest times of the year and we would never think to see him drunk as a skunk and swearing up a storm.  For the most part I had a pretty happy childhood and was grateful for what presents I got and yet seeing this movie with a character who lives up to every scummy vice dressed as Santa brought a smile to my face.

I don't see too many comedies anymore.  They are gross for the sake of being gross and not funny or are stuffed with the same actors who are supposed to make me laugh and don't.  That or the worst offense in that the jokes are replaced with cameos where it becomes more fun to look for the guest star or that their are no jokes, only injokes where you have to have some prior pop culture knowledge to get the jokes.

Bad Santa doesn't have any of this.  It's anchored by Billy Bob Thornton who has more talent then I think people give him credit for and he has a great sidekick with Tony Cox as Marcus, a foul mouthed dwarf who poses as the elf to his santa.  Billy Bob is Willie a drunken con artist and the two work major metropolitan malls every Christmas season until Christmas Eve where the two break into the store with their tools, break the vault open for the cash and run off with all the money and goods they can steal.  Willie is losing his edge and wants to retire from the game but Marcus already knows he won't stick to his word.  Sure enough come next Chrristmas, Willie is out of money and Marcus gives him a call and they're off to Phoenix for their next big heist.

The jokes are primarily around Willie and his drunken escapades.  He has no problem getting drunk and then having a fling with a barmaid in his car, he shows up drunk on the job on more then one occasion, and he definetly doesn't have a problem using profanity in front of kids.  A nice exchange to the young, parentless boy he cons into letting him spend the night at his house goes somthing like this: 
"Mrs. Claus caught me fu**ing her sister so I'm out on my a**.  Shes getting half the fu**ing house."

Another great one at the line in the mall to see Santa. 
"I said next Go**ammit!  This isn't the DMV!"

The Kid, as he is known throughout the film is a likeable little tyke who quickly takes to Willie as if he really is Santa.  Willie asks where his parents are and The Kid answers in the most obtuse ways one can to expalin to us, ones dead and the others in the slammer.  He's desperate for attention as his grandmother is comatose in a recliner half the time and his only peers we see are bullies.

John Ritter in what was his last role if I'm not mistaken has him a jittery human resources director whos worried about his new hires and makes sure to steer clear of anything un PC (boy did he pick the wrong movie).  The way Willie and Marcus use this to their advantage and turn the tables on him is priceless.  Speaking of priceless, did I mention the Coen Brothers had a hand in this movie as producers?

The movie is largely a one joke formula with Willie up to no good, plenty of filthy mouths and more cons and crimes.  Wash rinse repeat.  In another movie with a less telented cast, this would get tired pretty quick but here it fills the running time and doesn't feel tired for a second.  We even get to see Willie have some flashes of humanity in which he's able to pull the bottle away for a second and try and give the Kid some self respect.  These moments are left for the "Badder Santa" release which is the easiest to find on DVD.  The directors cut removes much of Willies time with the kid and many other scenes.

Bad Santa gives you just what the title promises, a Bad Santa.  He's not evil or demented just bad.  Take that into consideration parents, this is NOT for little kids (even though they might want to see it.)  The most amazing thing about this is that it got me to change one of my favorites.  We all have favorites, things that once we have in place, we don't want to change?  Well A Christmas Story is no longer my favorite Christmas movie.  The Red Ryder BB gun got replaced for a bottle of Jim Beam.
Santa and Sue Santa with some bullies Willie and Marcus Marcus and his mail order bride during a robbery The Kid Willie and Marcus celebrate another mall heist

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January 03, 2012
Great flick right here, great write up.
June 16, 2009
This was funny, though so dark that most of the time I felt like I shouldn't be laughing or enjoying it. :) I still prefer Will Ferrell in The Elf.
June 17, 2009
I like that Will Farrel's elf movie kicked that stupid Matrix movies butt at the box office. I saw a little of Elf, it's alright. I'd like it better if I liked Will Farrell more.
More Bad Santa (2003) reviews
review by . December 30, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
**** out of ****    Just about any film with the image of a man dressed as Santa Clause throwing up behind a bar - merged with the film's title card - is going to humor some and scare off others. If that very description sends you running, then "Bad Santa" most definitely isn't for you. It's a mean, slimy pile of cynicism; probably one of the only Christmas flicks out there to employ such qualities and still emerge such a nasty success. Under the direction of Terry Zwigoff (Ghost …
review by . December 25, 2004
posted in Movie Hype
BAD SANTA takes another view at this Holiday season and in trying to debunk (or rather, to parody) all the frantic commercialism that has threatened to drown Christmas, Director Terry Zwigoff has created a solid film noir comedy that will probably manage to have considerable staying power - if only to show the other end of the glitzy spectrum we now know as Christmas.    Billy Bob Thornton once again proves that he is one of our best comedians in the business. True, his comedy …
review by . November 25, 2003
posted in Movie Hype
Pros: Some Good laughs.     Cons: Many viewers may find it cruel     The Bottom Line: For some this can be just what you are looking for.     With the holiday season upon us, the cinemas will soon be filled will all manner of holiday and family entertainment. One film dares to show highly dysfunctional look at the holiday season and that film is “Bad Santa”      From Director Terry Zwigoff, “Bad Santa” …
About the reviewer
John Nelson ()
Ranked #8
Born in Wausau Wisconsin. Move at an early age to Ventura California and lived for 8 years. Growing up in a big city landscape didn't prepare me for my next move: Archbold Ohio with a population of … more
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About this movie


Instantly qualifying as a perennial cult favorite,Bad Santais as nasty as it wants to be, and there's something to be said for comedy without compromise. The Coen brothers conceived the basic idea and served as executive producers, but it's director Terry Zwigoff (Crumb,Ghost World) who brings his unique affinity for losers and outcasts to the twisted tale of Willie T. Stokes (Billy Bob Thornton), a hard-drinking, chain-smoking, foul-mouthed sexaholic safe-cracker who targets a different department store every holiday season, playing Santa while he cases the joint with his dwarf elf-partner Marcus (Tony Cox). With comedic support from Bernie Mac, Lauren Graham, Cloris Leachman, and John Ritter in his final film, Thornton milks the lowbrow laughs with a slovenly lack of sentiment, warmingBad Santa's pickled heart just enough to please a chubby misfit (Brett Kelly, hilariously deadpan) who may or may not be mentally challenged. As dry as an arid martini and blacker than morning-after coffee,Bad Santais an instant cure for yuletide schmaltz, and if you think this appropriately R-rated comedy is suitable for kids, your parenting skills are no better than Willie's.--Jeff Shannon
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Director: Terry Zwigoff
Genre: Comedy
MPAA Rating: R
Screen Writer: Glenn Ficarra, John Requa
DVD Release Date: June 22, 2004
Runtime: 91 minutes
Studio: Miramax Home Entertainment
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