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This film is just wrong in so many ways. Every moment is more outrageous
and offensive than the last. And if you know what you are in for you will
be rolling in the aisles with laughter, tears streaming down your face at
how audaciously funny this film is.
After sitting through the cute, predictable, sappy 'Elf' this film was 180. It's everything Elf and The Santa Clause weren't. This is NOT a holiday film to spark good cheer and Christmas spirit and it definately isn't for children.
It's crude, vulgar, offensive, mostly low-brow but smart about it. This isn't 'There's Something About Mary/American Pie' sex-vulgar. This is crude, mean people being crude and mean to each other. People who criticize this as a vulgar film had no business going to see it. If you want anything other than the most offensive Santa movie ever, stay away!
If foul language and sex doesn't bother you, than you will probably enjoy this one. Just be prepared - it's like nothing you've seen before.
All you need to know about this rude, dark holiday comedy is pretty much
right there in the title. Not that that's necessarily a bad thing in this
Billy Bob Thornton plays a department store Santa who is not exactly your ideal Santa. In fact, in the opening credits when the words "Bad Santa" appear, we're watching him vomit in an alley. He is a filthy, grumpy alcoholic who smokes and drinks constantly and cusses at the poor kids unlucky enough to sit in his lap and tell him what they want for Christmas (as if he cares).
His disregard for the job has to do with the fact that he plans to rob the store, with the help of his friend, a black dwarf (Tony Cox) who works with him as his "elf". Every year they pick a different department store and wait until Christmas Eve to crack the safe.
Even though "Bad Santa" is generally a one-joke movie, it's a very good joke, and the movie gave me a lot of pretty solid laughs. However, I wish they would have done a little MORE with it. There are just too many jokes that fall depressingly flat, and other aspects, like Bernie Mac's store detective character, that just don't deliver like they should. Bernie Mac is a hilarious guy, and that character should be FUNNY, but it's just not. If this script had gone through a few more drafts to punch up the weak areas, it could have been a really great comedy.
There is a lot of good stuff. I really liked Thornton's foul-mouthed, humorously ill-tempered character, and his relationships with a lonely, chubby kid (Brett Kelly) who keeps following him around, and with a sexy bartender (Lauren Graham of TV's "Gilmore Girls") with a Santa fetish. The scenes involving any combination of these 3 characters are very well done, but that's only about half the movie.
Director Terry Zwigoff has two masterpieces under his belt ("Ghost World" and "Crumb"), and "Bad Santa" obviously doesn't come close to those, but it definitely has lots of his cynical, sarcastic style.
I really wanted to give this movie 3 stars, and it came close, but in the end I was just a little too disappointed that it's not quite as good as it should be. A little more work and it could have been a classic; as it is, it's still pretty good.
I kept waiting for this movie to turn into something to justify my money
the box office...sadly, it never did. I'm far from a prude, but geeze, why
do writers feel that they have to bombard the audience with the "F" word
avoid humor? 98% of the time, this movie was showing how bad santa was and
the other 2% were weak for pulling it all together.
This movie misses the boat big time and is not worth the effort that was put into it.
Bad Santa has always been on my movies-to-watch list. I never got the
chance to see it until recently. This movie looked appealing to me
because Billy Bob Thornton is in the movie and he is a fine actor.
This movie is about a fake Santa who got a job in a mall. This is not your normal Santa. He cusses, drinks, and talk smack in front of the little kids. Also he's part of a heist that involves stealing things everyday. He must learn the importance between naughty and nice when he meets The Kid.
The acting was better than I expected. Billy Bob Thornton of course did an excellent job. Tony Cox is absolutely hilarious as the midget. The lates John Ritter and Bernie Mac were amazing. The actor who played the Kid was good even though his character is annoying.
Overall, this is a very funny film. If you want a Christmas film with laughs, this is it. I rate this movie 9/10.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is not your usual comedy. In fact, it's not only comedy, although
it has some hilarious scenes. After watching it for the second time, I
managed to reach under its crust of bad language, vulgarity, debauchery
and crime. These are but the set and the fuel for a surprisingly
complex and deep movie. Willie's development from total misery and
desperation (a tragic state, isn't it?) to re-discover the values of
being human, of respect and care for him and for others is carefully
and naturally constructed.
But to appreciate that, you need to be open-minded and go beyond the appearances of profanity and disgusting conduct. If you liked only conventional decorations and robotic gifts, don't watch this. First ask yourself what Christianity really means: not the ceremonies, not the priests and their hierarchy, not the opulence of cathedrals. It means to love your neighbor, to care for him and to respect him. And to love God. That's all.
And that's why this movie is convincing. No bland preaching, just ordinary people, emotional situations implied, a natural narrative, a surprising script and great acting. Thornton is just plain brilliant. Brett Kelly as The Kid is tremendous: annoying, naive, direct, thoughtful and love-thirsty. They form one of the oddest couples seen on screen, but a captivating one, too. Special notes for Tony Cox as Santa's Little Helper, Bernie Mac (talk about greed, man!), and the seductive Lauren Graham.
In a word, look under the surface of things. And I defy anyone with a soul to remain cynical and conceited as usual while watching the pink elephant scene. If Willie could achieve what he has achieved, anyone can.
I saw this at the theater with the old lady. Believe it or not, some folks brought their small children to this, apparently thinking it was typical xmas film fare a la "The Santa Clause." As they sat there in shock, with their jaws on the floor, the wife and I chortled and guffawed *OUT LOUD* with raucous roars of mirth! We were the only people there who knew what we were getting into beforehand, and, I think, the only ones who actually enjoyed the movie. Flawless performances by all. Clever, twisting script with unexpected surprises that just seem to keep coming. John Ritter's shocked mall manager portrayal was worth the admission price alone - even better than his "Sling Blade" performance. "What's up with the f'ing sandwiches?" is still a jocular catch phrase at our house *years* later! I rarely buy movies, as I am usually can't watch the same thing over and over again (unlike listening to music), but I bought this one 'cause I think it is one of the most funny movies ever made, along with "Young Frankenstein" (another fave that I roared at in the theater on it's original release -uh=oh, now I'm dating myself!).
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
In direct contradiction to the comment of one writer here (that the film
"has no moral center"), I thought Bad Santa was intensely moral, though in
an admittedly irreverent and politically incorrect way. I also found the
comments of another writer (that Willy's transformation by the end seems
abrupt and unearned) to be off-base--plenty of hints are dropped throughout
the film as Willy stumbles into his change of heart. I also disagree with
the various comments made here that the movie is sloppy, chaotic, has no
point, or makes no sense, but you'll want to know why.
On the most obvious level I think Bad Santa is essentially a bawdy condemnation of the cruelty of America and the hypocritical piety it has always used to try to cover up that meanness of spirit. Underlying this country's much-trumpeted prosperity has always been the grittier reality of those--most of us to some degree--who are trampled underfoot by the greed and pressure to succeed that are so prevalent in our culture, and who find themselves wrestling at this time of year with an unspoken loathing of Christmas--because it has become a shameless orgy of materialism, yes, but (more importantly) because the pressure for everything to be happy and perfect throws into horrible relief everything about one's life that is flawed or disappointing. Enter Bad Santa, which takes relish in crassly demolishing the saccharine American myth of Christmas and liberating us all from our guilt over not being perfect little suburban robot-cartoons. That's the heart of the film as a satire, but there's a human story here, too.
Willy is a bitter wash-out, but he's not so horrible that we can't sympathize with him. He's a self-destructive, foul-mouthed drunk, but as he begins (despite himself) to care for Thurman he proves himself worthy of our interest and concern. His motivation is simple and is the center on which the plot turns--as is the case with most victims of childhood abuse, he can't bear to see another child destroyed and ruined as he was. Notice that his worst episodes of drinking come after each time he is berated and cut down by Marcus, and that he comes most alive when Thurman puts himself down or is picked on by the skater kids. Willy's initially hesitant attempts to reach out to Thurman end up becoming, predictably, the seeds of his own redemption, until by the end he is forced to recognize his life as a sham and he risks it for the sake of one symbolic act of generosity.
Thurman is also not so confusing as commenters here have made him out to be. He's not retarded--just an unexceptional kid who's been through some hard knocks (dead Mom, Dad in jail) and who has been left stunned by the trauma, rendered passive and confused but still sweet-hearted and needing a parent (figure).
BTW, the shot toward the end of Willy lying on Thurman's front step in full Santa regalia, gunned down by the police and riddled with bullets, reaching out to leave the stuffed elephant for Thurman, is an absolutely brilliant image--pure genius. I'm almost disappointed that they didn't stop the movie there and leave off the happier ending, but that's me.
Now--for all that, the movie does have its flaws. The scenes with John Ritter and Bernie Mac seem strangely scattered and amateurish. As my g/f hypothesized, Ritter may have died during filming--maybe they had to use rehearsal tapes or something to finish the film. One can argue that Willy is too simple, that his motivations are too one-dimensional. The script could have been tighter, as could some of the editing, and the movie on the whole is not quite as funny as we're led to believe by the trailers...though it does have a good handful of solid laughs and one outright hysterical scene. All of this being said, I liked Bad Santa and still say that the dirty language doesn't hide its basic heart of gold. This is the Christmas movie George Carlin might make if he could, the Christmas movie America deserves. 8/10
Critically well-received when it was released Bad Santa was purported
to open a window on the festivity-and-fug-filled front room of the
Christmas movie. Don't you believe it. I only lasted half the film,
abandoning it for good at a continuity error so awful that I could only
conclude Terry Zwigoff doesn't care much about his audience either.
I think the idea is that the anti-Christmas message permeates the idea of the film being a Christmas film as well. It's not about Christmas but rather about Willie, a career criminal for whom Christmas is just another opportunity. Billy Bob Thornton is rather good as a foul-mouthed, socially inept drunk safe-cracker but that's about the extent of it. No one else is any good, it's graceless in the worst tradition of the Farrelly brothers 'gross-out comedies' there are innumerate plot cul-de-sacs and worst of all it's boring. 2/10
After reading a favorable review of this movie and noting it is a Coen brothers film, I gave this movie the ol' college try. What a disappointment. The "gags" are the most vile, unfunny slop I've seen on a movie screen to date. I hung in there for over an hour hoping for some plot turn-around, for the clever plot twist. "It's got to get better..." It never did. If you really want to see the type of "humor" in this movie, just hang out at the most seedy, vile bar in the biggest city near you and watch people pass out and fall down, have sex in alleyways, vomit on themselves and go ahead and laugh yourself silly. This movie is no more clever than that.
I'd give it 2, maybe 2 & 1/2 stars out of 4. Not "achingly funny." Only a few funny bits. Not very creative situations. You have to suspend disbelief way too much. One good actress to watch for in future, Lauren Graham, born in Honolulu in 1967.
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