reviews (a to z)# a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

home :: latest reviews :: reviewer profiles :: statistics :: diary :: links

Bad Santa (2003)

  Directed by: Terry Zwigoff
Written by: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen, Glenn Ficarra, Arnie Marx, John Requa, Terry Zwigoff
Starring: Tony Cox, Lauren Graham, Brett Kelly, Bernie Mac, Billy Bob Thornton
Links: Bad Santa on the IMDb, Buy on Video, Buy on DVD
Genre: Comedy

This movie gets: 8.33 (3 ratings) Ranking: Ranked equal 48th of 187 movies (2 ratings minimum; see full chart)

Bad Santa (2003) is also mentioned in em_fiction's review of The Man Who Wasn't There (2001).

"Bad Santa, good movie!" - a review by andy-j

In fact, this is a review of Badder Santa, the uncut and unrated version of the highly controversial film. Quite frankly (and I know I'm going off on a tangent here) I don't know why people were so up-in-arms about it. It's crude and nasty, but I've seen cruder and nastier. The uproar is probably due to the depiction of the precious icon Santa Claus as a thieving, swearing, drinking, sex-crazed lunatic. But for chrissakes, it's not about Santa, it's about a guy working as Santa at a shopping centre. Sheesh.

Anyway, enough bashing of conservative Nazi control freaks who take it upon themselves to decide what the rest of us can be exposed to and who don't even bother watching the movie before criticising it (not that I have ANYTHING against those folks!). Bad Santa is the story of Willie (Billy Bob Thornton), a department-store Santa Claus who robs the stores he works at, then lives off the proceeds for the rest of the year. His sidekick is Marcus (Tony Cox), an Afro-American Dwarf who is every bit as despicable as Willie, but who has at least some semblance of a moral code, even if he doesn't actually live by it. Willie meets some kid (referred to only as 'hey kid') who seems to believe he has met the real Santa Claus. The Kid lives with his grandma who has no sense of reality, so Willie takes advantage of this and moves in unnoticed. The film focuses on the events leading up to the big Christmas Eve job that Willie and Marcus are planning.

Bad Santa is one funny movie, which was actually quite a nice surprise. At first, you're thinking that the writers are deliberately trying to offend you, and I admit to approaching Bad Santa with a bit of prejudice, in that I was expecting to be shocked for the sake of being shocked. But I was soon won over by the really great approach that has been employed here. What makes Bad Santa so funny is that it doesn't try to be funny. It makes a joke, then it moves on. Unlike other comedies, it doesn't repeat the same joke over and over. It doesn't go for the cheap or obvious laughs - there are few throw-away one-liners, no zany slapstick, and very little deliberate setting up of jokes. It is intelligent comedy, because the characters are well-developed and endearing, and watching them and listening to them is what brings out the laughs. The characters don't just exist to deliver jokes or be zany - they have some real depth. There are some serious moments, which add a bit of meat to the whole experience. At one point, Willie attempts suicide. It's unexpected - there's nothing really to suggest that he would do such a thing. But suddenly we're forced to look at him in a whole different light, as we've never really considered how he must really feel.

Billy Bob Thornton is a great actor. His comedic timing is consistently spot-on and the subtle depth that he gives his performance (beyond what would have been adequate) really allows you to get an understanding of his character. Without such a strong performance (picture someone like the heavy-handed Will Ferrell in the lead) this movie would be a wreck. He is supported by a superbly talented cast - Tony Cox is particularly impressive, and steals every scene he appears in with the way he almost lectures Willie, even though he is no better. Bernie Mac is fantastic, as is John Ritter, who makes the most of what was his last film role. Brett Kelly is the Ralph Wiggum-esque kid, and he does an amazing job as the truly brainless, totally innocent child whose world centres around Santa Claus and the chocolates inside his advent calendar.

Bad Santa is one of the best comedies I've ever seen. Director Terry Zwigoff's previous film - Ghost World (2001) - is a favourite of mine. Bad Santa follows in its footsteps, being a genuine and sometimes surprising experience. This is how you make a comedy, people!

andy-j gives this movie 9 out of 10.
Review created on Fri 7 Oct 2005

""I'm an eating, drinking, shitting, fucking Santa Claus."" - a review by timchuma

Some films come with a reputation so it is hard to take an objective stand on them. I had heard the controversy that this film has been causing and I wanted to see it before too many people started talking about it and ruining it for me.

I have to say that this movie is revenge for all the sickly sweet Christmas movies that seem to appear every year. There was supposedly some trouble with the distribution company not wanting to release it, but we have all heard that story before, haven't we Michael Moore?

Even though I have seen Ghost World (2001) and Crumb (1994) by the same director, this movie is a lot different to both of them, so it was hard to see anything that was carried over between them. Many people will go to see the next film this director works on from the strength of this movie.

While Billy Bob Thornton's performance as the drunk Santa was good (with the advantage that he was actually drunk), the character of Marcus (Tony Cox) steals every scene he is in. When he plays off against the head of store security, Gin (Bernie Mac) the dialogue really zings:

[Willie has just passed out]
Gin: Look here, get him outta here and I'll go smooth things over with Chipeska. Tell him it was food poisoning or something.
Marcus: What do you mean, get him outta here?
Gin: Take him to the car.
Marcus: In case you didn't notice I'm a motherfucking dwarf, so unless you got a forklift handy, maybe you should lend a hand, hmm?
Gin: That figures. You want all kind of set-asides. Special treatment 'cause your handicapped. You're all the same.
Marcus: Special treatment? I'm 3-foot-fucking-tall you asshole! It's a matter of physics. Draw me a sketch of how I get him to the car, huh?
Gin: Bitch, Bitch, Bitch!
Marcus: Sketch it up, you fucking moron. Fucking Leonardo da Vinci.
Gin: What'd you call me thigh-high?
Marcus: I called you a fucking guinea homo from the 15th-fucking-century, you dickhead!
Gin: I could stick you up my ass, small fry.
Marcus: Yeah? You sure it ain't too sore from last night?
Gin: You got some lip on you midget.
Marcus: Yeah? Well these lips were on your wife's pussy last night. Why don't you dust that thing off once in a while? Asshole!

It was both really great and sad to see John Ritter in this movie as the wimpy mall manager (his final role). The last time I remember seeing him working with Billy Bob Thornton was in the movie Sling Blade (1996). Strangely, this movie has some similarities in that an outsider takes up with a troubled boy and becomes a father figure to him.

The kid in the movie is also not one of those cute, sickly, annoying ones that you find in most of these sorts of movies. He seems to have as many problems as the main character and he works very well with Thornton in the scenes he is in.

I would recommend this movie if you are sick of all the rubbish Christmas movies and want something different. I also advise watching this movie with a bottle of your favourite Russian spirit on hand, as it will help you enjoy the movie (Stolichnaya Vodka went as far to put a "drink responsibly" message in the credits).

timchuma gives this movie 8 out of 10.
Review created on Mon 21 Mar 2005

"Not your average holiday film" - a review by em_fiction

After the wonderful Ghost World (2001), Terry Zwigoff dives into a very entertaining black comedy aptly titled Bad Santa. Willie, played by a very nasty Billy Bob Thornton, is a mall Santa who works with associate elf, Marcus, Tony Cox (the limo driver from the Farrellys' (Bobby Farrelly and Peter Farrelly) Me, Myself & Irene). Kids, being kids, line up anxiously to meet who they imagine is the jolly father of Christmas. But alas, Willie isn't very jolly - in fact, he's a crude, foul-mouthed, sex-crazed alcoholic who's only motive in working at the mall is to rob it on Christmas Eve.

A string of characters enter the picture - Sue, Lauren Graham (from Gilmore Girls), a sexy, joyful barmaid who becomes Willie's love interest; Bob, played by the late John Ritter, the mall's owner and Gin, Bernie Mac, the nasty head of security.

Bad Santa isn't a film for the family. Despite the film's obsession with vulgarity, it doesn't lack energy in entertaining the audience. There's an intense focus on the gradual decline in Willie's life and how his only means of joy exist in a cans, bottles and shot glasses. Eventually he meets a dorky but somewhat mysterious kid who teaches him the value of life and the true spirit of Christmas.

This is, without doubt, Thornton's best performance since Sling Blade (1996) (although it's hard to compare them). He's acts so very sinister yet, at the same time, so very funny. Everyone in the film is good (well, nobody is noticeably bad that it's worth me discussing them). A notable set of credits are the Coen brothers (Ethan Coen and Joel Coen) who wrote the story and are also executive producers. Come to think of it, it is a pretty Coen-ish film.

I wouldn't place this film under the recommends list for fans of Ghost World, because the two films are very different, but that doesn't mean that lovers of that won't enjoy this. Terry Zwigoff again displays his skill in creating a likableness in his miserable characters, which then makes whatever story very interesting. Be warned though, Bad Santa is a hell of a lot more in-your-face.

Despite the ugliness you'd see at first glance, beneath the surface are many themes not unlike other holiday films. If you look beyond the alcohol and swearing, it is ultimately about hope, happiness and redemption. Bad Santa is probably the nastiest conveyor of the message "Christmas is the time for giving".

em_fiction gives this movie 8 out of 10.
Review created on Thu 1 Jan 2004

Movie review statistics

Number of reviews: 3
Average rating: 8.33
Lowest rating: 8 (by timchuma, em_fiction)
Highest rating: 9 (by andy-j)
Rating Percentage

Reader comments

  1. A fantastic comedy- a movie with a unique twist, in contrast to the usual myriad of films which appear during the christmas season.

    Rating given: 7

    A comment from Evatt Styles on Wed 05 Jul 2006 03:09 #

Those who have commented give this movie: 7.00 (1 rating)

Add a comment

Your name:
Email address:
Make public?
Anti-Spam question:To prove you're not a horrible spam-leaving robot, please answer the following question (use numbers):
If I have 10 Best Original Screenplay Oscars and win 5 more Best Original Screenplay Oscars, how many Best Original Screenplay Oscars do I have?
Rate this movie:

You may use the <em>emphasis</em> and <strong>strong emphasis</strong> HTML tags. URLs beginning with ‘http://’ will be turned into links. Line breaks will display as entered.