Bad Santa

With the holiday season upon us, the cinemas will soon be filled will all manner of holiday and family entertainment. One film dares to show highly dysfunctional look at the holiday season and that film is “Bad Santa”

From Director Terry Zwigoff, “Bad Santa” tells the story of a chain smoking, hard drinking womanizer named Willie T. Stoke (Billy Bob Thornton), who spends his Holidays working as a store Santa with his diminutive Elf assistant Marcus (Tony Cox). While Willie is a lousy Santa who despises the job, he puts up with it in order to loot the store’s safe on Christmas Eve. It is learned that every year Willie and Marcus work a store only to loot it after closing on Christmas Eve. The two then go their separate ways until the next season when they meet again and set their plan into motion again in a new location.

Willie wants to leave his ways behind him, but during his hiatus in Florida, he falls into his old habits and soon meets up with Marcus in Phoenix and dons his red suit for another dreary turn as Santa.

Along the way Willie meets a barmaid named Sue (Lauren Graham), who despite his numerous issues, takes an instant liking to him. Willie also comes to the attention of a young boy named Thurman (Brett Kelly), who is looking for a father figure in the form of a Santa. Thurman’s father is serving time and his mother has passed away leaving the portly and shy child in the sole care of his grandmother (Cloris Leachman). Not one to miss a chance, Willie takes up residence in Thurman’s suburban home and toils around town in the family BMW.

Willie and Marcus soon draw the attention of the local security chief, Gin Slagel (Bernie Mac), who knows their scheme and wants to shake them down for half the take. If that was not bad enough, the head of the mall (John Ritter), who has taken issue with the behavior and performance of Willie and seeks to replace him thus thwarting the planned heist.
Things build to an interesting series of events and resolutions that underscore the high degree of dysfunction of the characters as well as the fact that this is not a family film. As it stands, the film is a mixed bag as Thornton and Graham give very solid performances. That being said, the pervasive bad nature of the film and the high degree of dysfunction of the characters is likely to put off many viewers. I laughed at many of the segments of the film, but must admit that I was not entirely happy with the way things turned out. The film will be different things to different people so my suggestion is that viewers prepare themselves for a film about mean-spirited people and understand that this is a film about dysfunctional people and co-dependence, which may not be what you are looking for in a holiday comedy.

2.5 stars out of 5