Movie Dictator Club: Bad Santa (Unrated, 2003)

bad santa

It’s not Christmas time just yet, but that doesn’t matter to my dictation in the Movie Dictator Club for the month of November, 2009!

Written By: Glenn Ficara & John Requa
Directed By: Terry Zwigoff

I had somewhat pleasant memories of Bad Santa, and by somewhat I’m talking about the three or four minutes that I saw back around its release that caused me to emit a slight chuckle. Not having more to go on beyond that very minor memory I was interested when my fellow Filmspotter, Smirnoff, assigned me Bad Santa for the November dictator’s club. This month’s category was great movies of the ’00’s, and while we aren’t always in agreement my friend and I do share somewhat similar tastes as far as comedies and action movies go. Bad Santa isn’t an action film though, so I guess that last part doesn’t matter, but do I ever love to ramble on about bullshit. Back on point, the question you should be asking is, “Well, what’s the deal, is Bad Santa really among the best of the ’00’s (man does that look ridiculous, stupid decade with its double zeroes)?

I’ll give you a short answer to the aforementioned question, yes, Bad Santa is one of the best movies of the ’00’s. Bad Santa is a vile movie, it’s characters are repugnant and cruel and not nice people in any light, but they are hilarious and Bad Santa never commits the cardinal sin of sympathizing with its characters or glorifying them. There isn’t much of a theme to Bad Santa outside of the obvious, “Fuck you and all your goody goody Christmas bullshit”, but that’s okay. Bad Santa isn’t a theme based movie, it isn’t in my estimation trying to be profound or say anything important. Bad Santa shows terrible people doing terrible things and it’s funny and awesome, and that is the entire point of the film.

I dare you to tell me that a drunk Santa kicking the crap out of a foam reindeer isn’t funny. Try and tell me with a straight face that Thurman implying his dad got pissed at him for crapping on his mother’s dishes didn’t almost make you piss in your pants. If you can look me dead in the eyes and say that 1) Tony Cox flipping it to Bernie Mac isn’t a hilarious bit of wordplay or 2) Billy Bob Thornton telling a woman she won’t be able to shit right for a month as he’s fucking her in the ass didn’t cause you to spit take then we clearly have different senses of humor and Bad Santa isn’t the movie for you.

You don’t need to be a Grinch to enjoy Bad Santa, all that is required is a basic understanding of the deplorable nature of mankind and the humor that can be found in our ineptitude. Outside of the genuinely great performances across the board, Billy Bob Thornton was born to play Willie T. Stokes, the true quality of Bad Santa is found in its unflinching look at these characters. They aren’t sentimentalized, this movie certainly isn’t prone to any Hollywood bullshit, and not for a moment does Terry Zwigoff allow for you to care about a single character we see on screen. He avoids the Altman mistake in MASH of trying his damnedest to make these characters cool. By showing them for who they really are and not for a single moment pulling back they do become cool in their own way. Not people you would ever want to know or be around in real life, but characters that are cool to spend an hour and a half with on the big screen, or TV screen, whatever.

I’m happy that Smirnoff saw fit to dictate Bad Santa to me this month, the pain in my sides is a good thing, I assure you. To break it down as clearly as I can, I enjoy movies that make me laugh, and Bad Santa had me laughing a lot. It’s not a dark comedy, nor is it a black comedy, it may be a midget comedy, but it is most definitely a nasty comedy, and a darn tooting funny one at that. Next time you’re at the local mall, assuming you still have one in this day and age, and see that dude sitting on that well known chair in his costume stop and think. Think about what he really could be like, think of the Santa Clause he may really be, and if you’re anything like me a giant smile will splay across your face. That is the true genius of Bad Santa, that is where it’s real lasting power resides, and that is why it’s so damn funny.




8 responses to “Movie Dictator Club: Bad Santa (Unrated, 2003)

  1. hehe. fun review. it certainly is nasty

  2. This movie is freakin’ hilarious every time. So rude, but one of the better contributions to humanity that Billy Bob has put out there. Good review, man.

  3. I’m working on an alternate top 10 Xmas movie list and this is vying for number one spot. It’s one of the funniest films I’ve ever seen – cracking script, brilliant casting (Billy Bob is perfect for the part), and well-performed.

  4. mcarteratthemovies

    Bill, you have just reviewed my absolute favorite Christmas movie! I suggest it to everyone and invariably when they return the DVD they give me strange looks and say, “You’re a real weirdo.” I take that as a compliment.

    People focus too much on the “nasty” part of “Bad Santa” and not enough on the elements Dan mentioned. Scripts don’t get much sharper and funnier, and Billy Bob Thornton is the only actor alive who could play Willy T. Soke (GREAT name, by the way).

  5. Hey there Bill, I’ve nominated you for the Kreativ Blogger Award. See here for more info:

  6. Ross – Nasty indeed.

    Aiden – I shudder to think of anything else that Billy Bob may have contributed to society.

    Dan – The writing is certainly witty, and sharp.

    Never got back to you on this, but thanks for the nomination!

    M – I’d also content that Bad Santa is charming in a way that people have trouble processing.

  7. Hi Bill, I have a question. Since I’m currently building up my DVD library. Which version of “Bad Santa” should I get since there’s 3 versions available?

  8. Hmmm, I’d go with the Badder Santa version myself. It’s the director’s cut and is, I believe, the best version of the film.

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