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Bad Santa

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Bad Santa

Starring: Billy Bob Thornton, Bernie Mac
Director: Terry Zwigoff
Rated: R
RunTime: 93 Minutes
Release Date: November 2003
Genres: Comedy, Christmas

*Also starring: Lauren Graham, John Ritter, Hayden Bromberg, Stu Brumbaugh, Ethan Phillips, Lauren Tom, Tony Cox

Review by Susan Granger
3½ stars out of 4

Christmas cynics rejoice! Here's a big bad comedy just for you. Willie T. Stokes (Billy Bob Thornton) is a surly, sleazy, sarcastic alcoholic who earns enough money cracking department store safes at Christmastime to support his boozing-and-babes lifestyle for the rest of the year.

It works like this: each December, Stokes is summoned to a different locale by his partner Marcus (Tony Cox), a dwarf, for jobs as a Santa and his elf. While Santa bounces the kids on his knee, listening none too patiently to their wishes, the elf meticulously investigates the store's security system. Then, on Christmas Eve, when the safe's full of cash, they pull a robbery scam.

Problem is: Willie's perpetual drinking has made him unreliable and unruly, so their current gig in suburban Phoenix gets off to a shaky start with the store manager (the late John Ritter, to whom the film is dedicated). He reports their suspiciously rude behavior to the security chief (Bernie Mac), who has plans of his own. Meanwhile, Santa's befriended by a sweet, chubby, achingly lonely kid (Brett Kelly) whose takes him home. Since the kid's in the care of his grandmother (Cloris Leachman) who's perpetually comatose in front of the TV, rising only to make sandwiches, soon Willie's frolicking in the hot-tub with a lusty barmaid (Lauren Graham).

Striving to earn their R-rating, director Terry Zwigoff ("Ghost World") and screenwriters Glenn Ficarra and John Requa spare no one. It's equal opportunity offensive - and very, very funny. Which is not surprising since the quirky Coen brothers are executive producers. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Bad Santa" is a wickedly subversive 8. And if you like this kind of vulgar humor, Bill Murray's "Scrooged" (1998) takes a similar tone.


Copyright 2003 Susan Granger

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