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Bad Santa
A Movie For The Scrooge in Us All

Written: John Requa, Glenn Ficarra
Directed: Terry Zwigoff
Starring: Billy-Bob Thorton, Bernie Mac, John Ritter, Tony Cox, Brett Kelly

If you've seen an ad or a preview for Bad Santa then I already know what you think of it. It looks freaking terrible. To make matters worse take a look at the synopsis their putting out about it:

It's the height of the festive holiday season and merry shoppers have begun their yearly pilgrimages to their local malls. Among the drove is a pair of con men, on a decadent road trip, posing as Santa and his trusty elf. Rather than spreading good cheer, the duo's motive is to rob each shopping establishment along the way. Their savvy strategy, however, becomes complicated when they encounter a precocious 8-year-old who ends up teaching them the true meaning of Christmas.

Free Williamsburg
Film Archive

2003

Bad Santa
Kill Bill
Underworld
Cabin Fever
American Splendor
Don't Tempt Me
Magdalene Sisters
Garage Days
Dirty Pretty Things
Buffalo Soldiers
The Sea Is Watching
Garmento
Capturing the Friedmans
The Eye
28 Days Later
Spellbound
Cowboy Bebop

Washington Heights
Better Luck Tomorrow
Confidence
View From the Top

Laurel Canyon

Spider
Spun
Ordinary Sinner
Dark Blue
Chaos
The Quiet American
XX/YY

2002

Intacto
Empire
Max
Hell House
Good Housekeeping
Roger Dodger
Spirited Away
Punch-Drunk Love
Bowling For Columbine
Scarlet Diva
Full Frontal
Sex and Lucia
The Powerpuff Girls Movie
Read My Lips (Sur Mes Levres)
The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys
Barleby
Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones
Human Nature
Shot in the Heart
Jim Brown: All American
Stolen Summer
Curve
Ram Dass: Fierce Grace
Storytelling


Jesus Christ that looks terrible. I hate it when movies don't know how to promote themselves. Check out the poster as well. Even the title is insipid and uninspired.

This is also John Ritter's last movie. Generally actors' last movies are terrible or embarrassing. Check out Raoul Julia's flying car thingy in Street Fighter, Orson Wells' tepid and board delivery of Unicron in Transformers the Movie, or Jack Lemmon mucking it up with Walter Matthau in The Odd Couple II. But in this case the actor who started his career in one of the most embarrassing jokes of a role gets to go out in a blaze of comic brilliance. Maybe that's a bit much, 'comic brilliance,' but the movie is damn fine.

The reason why the trailer sucks so much is because the movie is about %80 swears. All of the great writing is swearing, almost all of the funniest moments involve Billy Bob spewing forth the nastiest possible phrases to an eight year old fat kid. You can't put that in a trailer for a Christmas movie. The movie disspells the feel-good aura that the trailers cast before the credits even start to roll and from there it only gets dirtier and funnier. I'm tempted to ruin the funniest lines, but I won't.

Yes, despite everything that's riding against it, Terry Zwigoff , who directed Ghost World and Crumb, delivers a smart, well written movie with some of the crassest dialogue I've ever seen. Don't get me wrong here, overall it's a pretty dumb movie, with only one real note of comedy. But that note is rung perfectly, the joke never really gets old, and in the end I haven't laughed this much in a movie theatre this year (except maybe at The Matrix: Revolutions). And that's what it really comes down to, isn't it?


The Ratings

One Razor Sharp Sling Blade

You have to love Billy-Bob when he's doing his thing well. This movie wouldn't work if it weren't for his perfect comic timing. This is a role that only he could play. No one else can curse as well as he does while simultaneously making you empathize with him.

One Dead Comedian

Nice work, Jon Ritter, you and Bernie Mac made a great team. I'll miss you.

Three Hipsters

There's two Christmas comedies out there right now (excluding The Cat In The Hat which doesn't really qualify as a movie, does it?) Some of you should probably just go see Elf so your holiday sensibilities don't get all trod upon, but everyone else should see Bad Santa. I guess this goes to show that you can't always trust your gut or a movies trailer. Sometimes you just have to believe.

 




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