Bad Santa

Movie Review by Neils Hesse

Starring: Billy Bob Thornton, Bernie Mac, Lauren Graham, John Ritter, Alex Borstein
Director: Terry Zwigoff

Yup, it’s that time of the year again when Kris Kringles let’s you sit on his lap and only if you’ve been a good boy or girl will you get a present. But what if Santa himself was actually really, really bad? Billy Bob Thornton is in perfect form as the cantankerous, bitter, alcoholic, safe breaking, child cursing, big women loving, chain-smoking bad Santa, otherwise known as Willie. This bad Santa has been working with his trusty elf, Marcus (Tony Cox), for years going to a different department store every Christmas to make the Santa loving kids and their wishes come true. Every Christmas after they’ve done their bit as Santa and elf, the elf sorts out the alarm and Santa cracks the safe, then off they go with the money. We find Santa at an extremely miserable point in his miserable life as he insists that he is quitting to go down to Florida where he’ll open up a bar, to which the elf’s response is that he will see him next year as he knows that he will probably just go and get drunk down there. True to form we see Santa being forcefully removed from a bar in Florida where he has been pouring himself drinks when the bartender’s back is turned.

Shortly after this incident Santa receives a call from his trusty elf to meet him in Phoenix for the usual Christmas cheer job. As Santa is doing his usual thing, which is in his case is rudely asking kids what they want and then shoving them off his knee, one persistent chubby kid comes up to him and asks him if he is really Santa to which bad Santa sarcastically responds, “No, I’m an accountant I just wear the suit for fun”. After the day is done the persistent kid follows Santa who it seems happens to habitually wear his suit after hours wherever he goes including bars. The kid ends up helping Santa out of an elfish situation so Santa decides to drop the kid off at his home only to discover that it is a very classy house and only his grandmother is home. Santa quickly dons a mask on top of his suit and proceeds to empty the safe to which the kid innocently asks, “Is that for repairing your sleigh?” to which Santa responds, “Exactly”.

Meanwhile the shopping mall manager played by the late John Ritter does not trust Santa so he orders his security manager played by an under utilized (Bernie Mac) to keep an eye on him and the elf. Santa decides to lay low by moving into the kid’s house and driving the kid’s father’s BMW around town. The security manager figures out what the merry twosome are up to and insists that he get half of whatever they get. As his life spirals out of control Santa decides to end it all so he sits down in the BMW with a pipe running from the exhaust but the little, persistent kid distracts him and his pleas for simple friendship from Santa makes Santa see things differently. As they finish off their usual end of year work the elf turns the tables on Santa brandishing a gun but things take a turn for the worse as it turns out that the cops are watching their every move. Surprisingly despite the danger involved Santa decides that come what may, he will get the kid the toy elephant he wanted for Christmas and he speeds off with the cops hot in pursuit to do just that.

Director Terry Zwigoff has created a great comedy thanks mainly to the inspired casting of Billy Bob Thornton whose portrayal of the bad Santa is part hilarious and part downright bad.

A very, very funny movie that’s definitely not aimed at the family.

5 out of 6 stars

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