In association with
Review published
December 10, 2003
A.J.'s Rating:  3.5 Anti-Yuletide Stars
Bad Santa
Directed By:  Terry Zwigoff
Written By:  John Requa & Glenn Ficarra (writers) Ethan Coen & Joel Coen (story)
Arnie Marx & Terry Zwigoff (screenwriters)
Starring:  Billy Bob Thornton, Tony Cox, Brett Kelly, Lauren Graham, Lauren Tom,
Bernie Mac, John Ritter
MPAA:  Rated R for pervasive language, strong sexual content and some violence.
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    So, what do you want from a Christmas movie?  You want visions of sugarplums?  You want snow and sleigh bells?  You want happy carollers full of joy and good cheer?  Gee, you want a lot don't you... just like all those snot-nosed little nutcrackers who jump on Santa's lap every year demanding candy and Japanese electronics.  Oops, sorry.  My bad.  I've just returned from seeing Bad Santa, and haven't quite gotten it out of my system yet. 
    Bad Santa is one really messed up Christmas movie.  It's wrong on so many levels that I can't even begin to list them here.  It's wrong, but in hilarious ways.  In fact, I'm somewhat in awe of its immoral, demented brilliance.  Of course, keep in mind that I also feel that way toward South Park, There's Something About Mary, and most movies starring Joe Pesci.
    The sordid fun begins with our anti-heroes, Willie and Marcus. Willie, played by Billy Bob Thornton, masquerades as Santa for a different department store every Christmas season.  The job pays pretty well, considering that his real motive is to crack the store's safe and make off with a big bag full of goodies.  Problem is, the grind of playing Santa for 30 days out of the year is beginning to take its toll.  In fact, Willie now spends most of his time on and off the job in a drunken, foul-mouthed stupor.  Marcus, played by Tony Cox, is Willie's equally vulgar little helper.  He's the requisite buddy partner and disgruntled elf to Willie's crooked Kris Kringle.  Marcus is also the brains of the outfit.
    Unfortunate enough to have hired this twisted twosome is Bob, the store manager, played by John Ritter.  He desperately needs a valid reason to fire Willie and Marcus, but is such a nice, well-meaning fellow that he soon finds himself hopelessly hog-tied by his own political-correctness.  After all, what someone does in their personal life, swearing, drinking, or, um, other things, is their own business.  Problem is, he has never caught Willie doing anything wrong around the children.  Bob is so distraught by Willie's behavior that he enlists the help of Gin, played by Bernie Mac.  As store detective, it's Gin's job to spy on Willie and Marcus, and find a reason to fire them.  Gin gets more than he bargained for... a lot more.
    Speaking of Willie doing, um, other things, what Christmas movie would be complete without a love interest?  Willie's main squeeze is Sue, played by Lauren Graham.  It seems that Sue has a thing for guys in Santa suits.  That's no problem at all for ol' Willie.  Who would have guessed that Mrs. Claus even had a sister?
    Rounding out the cast is young Brett Kelly, who plays 'The Kid'   The Kid believes that Willie is the one and only Santa, and is willing to help our clever con-man any way he can.  Problem is, he usually only succeeds in creeping Willie out.  You think the others have problems?  The Kid is one strange little dude.
    Okay, by now you should have a pretty good idea whether or not to see Bad Santa.  It's dark.  It's rude.  It's sometimes simply disgusting.  It's not for everyone, and definitely not for children.  Problem is, it's also funny as hell.  Bad Santa is the perfect holiday treat for those who don't mind being put on Santa's 'Naughty' list.