Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Movie Review: "Bad Santa" (2003)

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Movie"Bad Santa"
Director: Terry Zwigoff
Year: 2003
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 31 minutes

A pair of criminals, an alcoholic, degenerate safe cracker named Willie (Billy Bob Thornton) and his partner Marcus (Tony Cox), the one who plans and fronts their heists, get jobs at a department store as Santa and an elf in a different city each year in order to pull off one big job that keeps them comfortable all year. With each passing year, Willie gets worse and worse as he sinks deeper and deeper into alcoholism and depression. He also can't stand kids but has to endure them while posing as Santa. Marcus is getting fed up with Willie's unreliability and has to do his best to keep them employed just long enough to pull off the job, but Willie's drinking, smoking, bad attitude, and on the job fornication makes that increasingly more difficult each year. 

When I first watched this movie, I didn't get its appeal, especially considering it was mildly traumatizing to see Lorelai Gilmore was having sex with Billy Bob Santa in the front seat of his car. It took years to burn that image out of my head. Now, several years later, "Bad Santa" has been able to provide some much needed laughs for us during the holiday season. We can imagine that mall Santas don't have it easy between kids who have meltdowns and crying fits, parents prodding their kids to sit on Santa's lap and being generally overbearing and, well, fecal accidents, if we're quite frank. Billy Bob Thornton has a knack for playing an ass and it completely works in this movie. His drunken and disheveled demeanor mixed with his totally abrasive and increasingly ambivalent attitude towards Christmas makes for a darker, more offbeat holiday film, one that we enjoy every now and then. And, it's not all completely for no reason. Willie was raised terribly with a constantly drunk, abusive father, so it sort of makes sense that he grew up to be a drunk adult who was overly abusive to kids who just wanted their picture taken with Santa Claus. No one has ever cared about Willie, except for The Kid (Brett Kelly), or Thurman Merman, who has taken a liking to him and is too seemingly oblivious to know when he's being insulted. This allows him to accept Willie, and in turn, maybe change Willie's attitude, even if it's only slightly. Though complete opposites, Kelly and Thornton have delightful chemistry, no matter how misplaced it may seem. Kelly, on his own, is the real life version of a Disney character: big, wide eyes, an overactive imagination, pudgy, and generally adorable. Tony Cox plays Marcus and provides the bulk of the non-drunken humor. He is the driving force of their little criminal operation and keeps Willie in check, even if that means literally picking him up off the floor, even though he's only 3 feet tall. Cox and Thornton trade several funny and insulting jabs back and forth between one another and these squabbles are hilarious to watch play out on screen. The concept for this movie puts a holiday spin on the typical heist plot and we like how Thornton and Cox actually have to put in the work for their payday and not just plan it out then cash out immediately. The stuff they have to deal with by being a mall Santa and a mall elf, in our opinion, is probably not worth the money or the loot...I mean, getting peed on every single day by kids who sneeze food in your face and tug at your hair and scream and whine? I'd rather be a poor drunk. All in all, if you need a break from the fun, happy and upbeat Christmas movies of yore, "Bad Santa" is another good alternative for those who have slightly angsty and salty views towards Christmas and children.

One other note: we have to admit, it was weird to watch a scene where both Bernie Mac and John Ritter exchange sarcastic dialogue knowing they have both passed away. What a trip.

My Rating: 7/10
BigJ's Rating: 6.5/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.1/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 77%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?
One year ago, we were watching: "Love Actually"

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