A miserable conman and his partner pose as Santa and his Little Helper to rob department stores on Christmas Eve. But they run into problems when the conman befriends a troubled kid, and the security boss discovers the plot.
Willie T. Stokes is a convicted con man who's led a miserable life. He drinks heavily and constantly embarrasses himself publicly. He only works once a year dressed as Santa. But then come Christmas Eve, he and his pint-sized helper dwarf Marcus stage elaborate robberies and take their department stores for everything they got. This year, they hit a mall in suburban Phoenix, Arizona. This time around, Willie gets distracted by having sex with large women, a bartender who is attracted to Santas, and a kid who's convinced he's the real deal. However, this time around Marcus must once again put up with Willie's heavy drinking and a series of incidents that constantly shoot themselves in the foot. Not to mention a nosy department store security guard who's onto them and wants his cut of the loot. Will Willie and Marcus make it to next Christmas? Or will this be the year the dynamic duo finally face justice? Written by
It took two viewings to really get into it- and really laugh my head off
The first time I saw Terry Zwigoff's latest effort (co-executive produced by the Coen brothers) Bad Santa, I didn't know whether I was watching a comedy that had astonishingly funny and madcap moments, or if it was a really bad movie. At times the script felt like it was under the penmanship of demented cretins off loan of some low-rent porno company. But there were scenes and moments with good old Billy Bob Thornton that had me laughing uncontrollably, so I decided to see it again recently. Now I understand it- this is a dig-in nails, ribald, hardcore satirical look at one (un-kept is a term used loosely) man in the midst of Americana during Christmas time.
This man is Willie, played by Billy Bob, as something of a loser, low-self esteem, boozing, cursing, and a thief, though only at Christmas time. In a sense he's a modern day pirate without a shave, though with a yearly plan to rob a large store in a given mall he's given a job at with his co-patriot Marcus (Tony Cox, whom you may recall from uproarious bit parts in Friday and Me, Myself, and Irene). In one season, however, he meets a Kid (Brent Kelly), who for some reason looks up to this con-man in a red suit, giving him a place to stay in turn (never asked for) for some advice and help with bullies and self-esteem. On the first viewing of Bad Santa, along with not knowing whether I was seeing a good or bad film, I didn't know whether Billy Bob was pushing the 'rotten-dude' envelope over the top or just right. This may be a problem for most viewers going to see it once and not thinking of seeing it again.
But I think Bad Santa is one of those movies that merits a repeat viewing- you may laugh less or harder at certain jokes and moments of outrageousness, some may fly over your head completely or make you go "eww". Yet I think the brilliant aspect about Bad Santa is it never takes itself a bit too seriously. Even in the denouement, when we are sort of assured things will turn out alright; it's like a denouement on a South Park episode. In fact, that's something that can be said about Bad Santa, is that it feels like a work in the vein of Parker and Stone, but since it's from the director of Ghost World it comes off a little fresher, with an appeal all its own.
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