Sunday, December 21, 2014

Bad Santa

Bad Santa; black comedy, USA, 2003; D: Terry Zwigoff, S: Billy Bob Thornton, Tony Cox, Bret Kelly, Lauren Graham, Bernie Mac, John Ritter, Cloris Leachman

Each Christmas, Willie works as Santa Clause with his partner, the short Marcus, who plays an elf, in order to later rob the safe of the mall. Naturally, they have to change towns each year. This Christmas, though, they land in Phoenix and Willie is getting too sloppy due to his alcoholism, swearing and anal sex, which threatens to bust them. Willie meets a little kid who thinks he is truly Santa and invites him at his place. Willie accepts, but slowly starts to like the naive, but charitable kid. He also meets a woman, Sue, who is turned on by Santas. When the manager of the mall figures who they are and demands 50 percent of the theft, Marcus kills him. The police bust them, and wound Willie, but he is able to give a present to the kid before the shootout.

Director Terry Zwigoff marched two steps back compared to his previous, excellent independent film "Ghost World" when he directed the black comedy "Bad Santa": as some have already noticed, it is a sickeningly disheartening and grotesque film that is not a spoof, but a perversion of the Christmas holidays genres, in which the mean-spirited tone simply went way, way overboard until it killed the story. It was simply in poor taste to have an idea where a Santa Clause is played by a man who swears in front of kids, steals the safe and car of a kid who invited him to his home and is a chronic alcoholic. There are some universal themes - already present in Zwigoff's own "Ghost World" - about losers and unadjusted outsiders, but just done worse, since here the main protagonist is not an intellectual. Disappointingly, he is just a vile, primitive person, and so is the entire film. The only redeeming features are a few good jokes here and there ("Are you kidding? That kid has no friends. Even his imaginary friend probably ditched him!"; the 'bargaining' duel between Marcus, who is slowly forced to raise the percentage of his share from 30 percent upwards, and Gin who just stays with his demands - "half" - the entire time) and a surprisingly touching subplot involving a naive, innocent kid with a heart of gold who never loses faith in the main character, which culminates in a touching ending. Unfortunately, that is too little. "Bad Santa", bad movie.


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