>> Saturday, January 27, 2007
USA/C-91 m./Dir: Terry Zwigoff/Wr: Glenn Ficarra & John Requa/Cast: Billy Bob Thornton(Willie T. Soke), Tony Cox (Marcus), Brett Kelly (Thurman Merman), Lauren Graham (Sue), Bernie Mac (Gin), John Ritter (Bob Chipeska)
For those of us of the “bah, humbug” crowd that find sugarcoated holiday fare intolerable, Bad Santa provides the perfect 100 proof antidote. This laugh-out-loud dark comedy is simply the funniest film to be produced so far this decade; and it can proudly stand head-to-head with the best work of W.C. Fields.
Billy Bob Thornton stars as Willie T. Soke, a small-time safecracker who, with his dwarf partner, Marcus (Tony Cox), takes a job each year as a department store Santa Claus and elf combo, in order to case the business they plan to rob. Although the scheme has resulted in several big scores, Willie has become unreliable over the years due to his drinking. The pair has a hard time staying inconspicuous, because the sham Santa isn’t a good-natured drunk like Dudley Moore’s Arthur. He’s a bad-tempered, foul-mouthed, suicidal, pissing-his-pants drunk. If the heist wasn’t complicated enough, it doesn’t help that Willie can’t shake a weird, fat kid (Brett Kelly) who still believes in Santa Claus.
Thankfully, this is not the type of film where a grumpy adult learns the true meaning of Christmas from a loveable waif. Bad Santa is vile, depraved, gross, and at times near tragic, but the film manages to get away with its dark subject matter, because it is balanced with uproarious dialogue and situations. It’s a shame that this type of film never wins awards, because Thornton, Cox, and John Ritter all deliver Oscar-caliber performances. If you hate Christmas or you just love liquored laughs, Bad Santa will have you in hysterics for days after viewing it.
Drinks Consumed--Bourbon, beer, and vodka (straight and screwdrivers)
Intoxicating Effects--Swearing, staggering, stumbling, vomiting, public urination, soused sex, passing out, the shakes, public disturbance, destruction of property, and physical violence
Potent Quotables--WILLIE: You can’t drink worth a shit. You know that?
MARCUS: I weigh 92 pounds, you dick.
Video Availability--Three versions of the film are available on Buena Vista DVD: Bad Santa, Badder Santa, and Bad Santa: Director's Cut. Badder Santa is the longest of the bunch, adding seven minutes of equally amusing footage to the theatrical cut. The Director’s Cut is actually three minutes shorter than the theatrical version, but it does contain alternative material that was not available in the previous versions. Overall, Badder Santa is the preferred version, but the Director’s Cut is an interesting curiosity for fans of the film. The Bad Santa Blu-ray disc includes both the Badder Santa and Director's Cut versions.
Similarly Sauced Cinema--Coach Buttermaker (Walter Matthau) of The Bad News Bears (1976) also mixed kids and alcohol with amusing results, so it wasn’t surprising that Billy Bob agreed to put his stamp on the role in the 2005 remake.