Movie Review: <i>Bad Santa</i>

OK. I’ll start right off by saying that Bad Santa, although starting out with some promise and laughs, unfortunately wound up being a pretty Bad Movie.

Billy Bob Thornton is Willie, a department-store Santa who only tolerates the job in order to rob the store’s safe after closing time. Together with his verticle-challenged 'elf' assistant, they move from city to city every winter to stock up on loot. Meanwhile, Willie is a drunken, foul-mouthed loser perpetually tired, hungover, or angry. In this film, they are in a Phoenix mall with a too-timid store manager (the late John Ritter) and crooked security manager (Bernie Mac), both who have commendable performances.

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Promising premise. But the problem with this film is that it rides a one-joke shtick far too often and far too long into the movie. Now, don’t get me wrong. I enjoy a rude n’ crude comedy romp on occasion, and thoroughly enjoyed Jay & Silent Bob and the American Pie series (well, at least the first two films). But while Thornton’s tirades prompt laughs to some extent, Bad Santa lacks the wit and clever twists that usually make a film interesting beyond the one-hour mark. The script for this film seemed too easy to write. Watching Santa get drunk, pee on himself, vomit, and cuss out unsuspecting children is pretty funny... for the first 30 times. For instance, simply saying the f-word dozens of times in a row isn’t quite enough to elicit laughs unless there’s some interesting development and witty repartee to go along with it (although, given the good reviews this film has gotten, perhaps it is enough for the moviegoers). Otherwise, the film gets boring no matter how many bodily-fluid gags are thrown on the screen.

Another roadblock to the film are the objects of Santa’s derision, and really no one to identify with. In National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, a less raunchy but far funnier film, the targets are annoying relatives and a mean boss. You actually sympathize and root for Clark W. Griswold when he 'loses it'. In Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, the targets are car rental clerks, snoring airline passengers, and other misfits. You cheer on Neil Page's profanity-laden tirade at the rude sales clerk.

But in Bad Santa, the victims throughout the film are innocent pre-pubescent kids who consistently feel Willie's drunken abusive wrath, particularly a chubby and slow-witted kid whom Willie exploits to move into his grandmother’s home. It’s just difficult to laugh at continual beat-downs of little kids. I have a feeling this script in the hands of Kevin Smith or the Farrelly Brothers would’ve gone in a better direction.

In closing, it’s good enough for a rental, or even a matinee. It’s also good if you’re in a disgruntled mood and want to watch a loose story filled with pitch-dark humor. But overall, it gets a C- grade in my book.

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WARNING: possible

WARNING: possible spoilers!

I gave it a B. In the end the movie basically shows that life is less about what happens to you and more about how you deal with it.

I liked Thornton's character because he did the things you often want to do. Especially beat up the bully and yell at the kids with annoying habits. When the chubby kid calls himself a dip-shit loser, Willie loses it finally realizing what his behavior is doing.

The movie definitely could have been wittier but is still worth the rental.

Thornton is good at playing

Thornton is good at playing creepy characters: "I don't rightly know. I jest kindly woke up aholdin' on to it. Mmmm-hmmmm."