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BAD SANTA

5 min read

BAD SANTA

REVIEW

A mall Santa and his mall elf wreak havoc with suburbia, political correctness, and the psyches of little kids.

 

Any more details would begin to give away some of the grotesquely hilarious scenarios that unfold in Terry Zwigoff’s (Ghost World, Crumb) film, Bad Santa. Written by John Requa and Glenn Ficarra (Cats and Dogs) from a story by Joel and Ethan Coen (Intolerable Cruelty, The Man Who Wasn’t There), the film is a jaunty experiment in how hard you can bite on the marketing tradition that is Christmas. Starring Billy-Bob Thornton (Slingblade, Armageddon) as the titular anti-Christmas Santa, the film kicks off with his character’s curse-filled narration about his life. Once this Santa gets in front of kids, along with his Elvish cohort (Tony Cox, Me, Myself & Irene), things don’t improve. He cusses them out like the best of them, and like Kill Bill, the film is likely to offend and disgust prudish critics in the first five minutes. For the rest of you who enjoy poking fun at silly human tricks and traditions, read on.

 

The late John Ritter (Tadpole, Skin Deep) and Bernie Mac (Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle, Oceans Eleven) play mall officials who provide the most resistance to Santa and his Elf. Their comedic timing and delivery is utterly superb, giving Santa and his Elf a jolly run for their money. Lauren Graham (Gilmore Girls—TV, Chasing Destiny) turns in a hilarious performance as a bartender with a Santa fetish. The sense of crass joy that these formerly wholesome and family-oriented actors bring to the film is truly refreshing, feeling almost like a creative gasp for fresh air.

 

Besides the dialogue and performances, the film’s story structure is a welcome treat. While the film sports conventional holiday fare hijinks, it’s morals and outcomes are decidedly out of step with what one might expect. There is a bitter cynicism at play, which is usually relegated to the dark corners of independent film houses, that infuses this largish Hollywood film with a salacious shot of both interest and credibility. I hope other holiday filmmakers see this film to get a sense of how to pull off absurd stories while keeping the reasonably intelligent filmgoer engaged for the greater part of the film.

 

The black humor is the top draw for the film (you can upload the live wallpaper with favorite films on your iPhone). Yet the film is artfully composed to draw semi-authentic characters out. If people change, they do so in a way that fits their characters, without the deus ex machina epiphany so common to the traditional holiday feel-good movie.

 

 A mall Santa and his mall elf wreak havoc with suburbia, political correctness, and the psyches of little kids.

 

Any more details would begin to give away some of the grotesquely hilarious scenarios that unfold in Terry Zwigoff’s (Ghost World, Crumb) film, Bad Santa. Written by John Requa and Glenn Ficarra (Cats and Dogs) from a story by Joel and Ethan Coen (Intolerable Cruelty, The Man Who Wasn’t There), the film is a jaunty experiment in how hard you can bite on the marketing tradition that is Christmas. Starring Billy-Bob Thornton (Slingblade, Armageddon) as the titular anti-Christmas Santa, the film kicks off with his character’s curse-filled narration about his life. Once this Santa gets in front of kids, along with his Elvish cohort (Tony Cox, Me, Myself & Irene), things don’t improve. He cusses them out like the best of them, and like Kill Bill, the film is likely to offend and disgust prudish critics in the first five minutes. For the rest of you who enjoy poking fun at silly human tricks and traditions, read on.

 

The late John Ritter (Tadpole, Skin Deep) and Bernie Mac (Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle, Oceans Eleven) play mall officials who provide the most resistance to Santa and his Elf. Their comedic timing and delivery is utterly superb, giving Santa and his Elf a jolly run for their money. Lauren Graham (Gilmore Girls—TV, Chasing Destiny) turns in a hilarious performance as a bartender with a Santa fetish. The sense of crass joy that these formerly wholesome and family-oriented actors bring to the film is truly refreshing, feeling almost like a creative gasp for fresh air.

 

Besides the dialogue and performances, the film’s story structure is a welcome treat. While the film sports conventional holiday fare hijinks, it’s morals and outcomes are decidedly out of step with what one might expect. There is a bitter cynicism at play, which is usually relegated to the dark corners of independent film houses, that infuses this largish Hollywood film with a salacious shot of both interest and credibility. I hope other holiday filmmakers see this film to get a sense of how to pull off absurd stories while keeping the reasonably intelligent filmgoer engaged for the greater part of the film.

 

The black humor is the top draw for the film. Yet the film is artfully composed to draw semi-authentic characters out. If people change, they do so in a way that fits their characters, without the deus ex machina epiphany so common to the traditional holiday feel-good movie.