BAD SANTA, by GHOST WORLD's Terry Zwigoff, is an R-rated black comedy that's
definitely not for everyone, which is an understatement. This hilarious comedy
is a pull-no-punches tale of a disgraceful department store Santa Claus named
Willie T. Soke. As Willie, Billy Bob Thornton chews up the scenery with some
really wicked humor. It's not a film for the kiddies, and it's probably too
strong for most adults. If the mere idea of the movie turns you off, you
shouldn't even consider going. But, if you've liked such dark comedic movies
as VERY BAD THINGS, you'll probably enjoy BAD SANTA's dry, acerbic wit.
Willie is an alcoholic loser who only manages to survive due to one great,
long-term scam. Every year at Christmas, he and his partner, Marcus (Tony
Cox), a dwarf, dress up as Santa and his elf and go to work for a different
department store in a different state. On Christmas Eve, they rob the store
right after it closes. The movie isn't about the robberies but about how
Willie copes in a job that he loathes with a burning passion.
Spending his entire life falling-down drunk, Willie gets in even worse shape
when he's on the job. Hating kids, he likes them to hop on and off his knee as
fast as humanly possible. "Watch the bladder, kid," he tells one of the tikes.
"Santa's gotta pee." When one doubtful boy asks Willie if he is the real
Santa, Willie answers with his signature sarcasm, "No, I'm an accountant. I
just wear this thing as a fashion statement."
With bubbly Christmas cheer, such "It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year,"
piped into every place that Willie goes, he's like a bull being tormented by a
never-ending stream of flies. There are some plusses and minuses to his job as
St. Nick, since both men and women harbor long repressed desires to have sex
with the man in the red suit.
If you dread the big, fake scene in which Willie finally realizes the error of
his ways, it basically doesn't happen, although he eventually shows some
remorse. But for most of the movie, Thornton keeps his character firmly in the
gutter. With downcast eyes and a despicable demeanor, Willie isn't likely to
make it on many people's list for Christmas gifts. The movie, however, is a
real delight that provides a nicely caustic complement to the typically
saccharine holiday fare. Think of it as the sour part of a delicious
sweet-and-sour sauce for the holidays.
BAD SANTA runs 1:33. It is rated R for "pervasive language, strong sexual
content and some violence" and would be acceptable for older teenagers.
Copyright © 2003 Steve Rhodes