Director Terry Zwigoff’s previous two films were the underground documentary Crumb and the highly regarded independent film Ghost World. Now he seems intent on producing what is without question the most anarchic Christmas movie ever made!
The very idea of an extremely nasty Santa is one that almost any filmmaker could have turned into a decent film. Luckily, this team is sufficiently talented to transform the affair into one of the funnier movies of recent years.
Billy Bob Thornton is simply outstanding as Willie, a safe cracker who works as a Santa Claus each holiday season in order to gain access to the store safe. Tony Cox plays Marcus, his partner in crime who is the organizer each year, and who as a dwarf makes a great Christmas elf.
It is hard to imagine anyone better than Billy Bob in the role, though he was actually the third choice, the part having been offered to and turned down by both Jack Nicholson and Bill Murray.
Examples of how profane Willie is will never make it past the censors here, so lets just say that he is constantly drunk, a heartless thief, a bit of a sexual predator, and the most foul mouthed individual outside a Quentin Tarantino flick. Bernie Mack is outstanding in a supporting role as a department store security chief, and John Ritter plays a supporting role in what would be his last motion picture before his death.
Bad Santa (check out the Director’s Cut) isn’t just an anti-Christmas film. It is a sheep in wolf’s clothing. In the end, it is at its core a standard Christmas film, which are always about redemption and getting a second chance. The happy ending is a veritable parody of the host of inescapable happy endings that most Christmas movies have collided with over the years.
I’m sure this film will offend some folks. Myself, I don’t offend easily, at least by a movie (greedy capitalists and the politicians that empower them are another matter). I thought it was a hysterical movie, and a delightful alternative to all those dreadful Christmas movies we’ve had shovelled our way over the decades.