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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 Steve Rhodes
3 stars out of 4

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

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