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.