Good old mall Santas. Beating the crap out of teenagers.
Criminals Willie (Billy Bob Thornton) and Marcus (Tony Cox) disguise themselves as Santa Claus and his elf and travel across the country to major malls, using the good will people have toward Santa to rob the mall stores blind. The problem is, Willie can’t stand kids. Their plan still progresses beautifully until the two reprobates meet an introverted 8-year-old boy who reminds them of the true meaning of Christmas.
To many people out in the world, Christmas is a time to spend with your friends and family, thinking of gifts and sharing them with others. This film is not the one for those kind of jolly people.
Director Terry Zwigoff is pretty good at making these laughs very dark and ones you almost sort of feel bad for laughing at in the first place. It’s a very funny film in that almost everything you see and hear is very twisted in its own right but that’s not to say that everything is dark and not for anybody. The humor is relatively juvenile and it’s not for any type of intellect out there to realize that this Santa is a total dick.
Although there is a lot of crass and dark humor, the films starts to reveal some heart to it. The story between the little fat kid and Willie starts off rather annoying but as time goes on, it gets a lot more sweeter and even though I knew this is where the film was trying to go, I really did feel like it was earned rather than forced. This whole story goes on with a bunch of swearing, sarcasm, booze, and anger so for it to actually get a little bit of a sweet story about a kid who needs a “daddy figure”, felt like a nice little moral side that works for the flick.
My problem with this film is that I feel like there were so many opportunities where they could have capitalized a little bit more on this rather than just spending the last 20 minutes to really focus on it. The story was right there in front of their faces and they kind of just let it go the whole time without ever really acknowledging it until it obviously seemed necessary. Also, the little fling that Willie has with a hot and sexy chick named Sue (Lauren Graham) seemed a little too weird how she was all obsessed with Santa and just the way she acted had me a little creeped out by here, but she was still smokin’.
As the film goes on, the story started off a little bit ridiculous then it starts to get more and more unbelievable, which I know is weird considering I’m talking about a film where a dude is dressed up like Santa goes and robs malls, but I still couldn’t get by it. I never understood just how Willie and Marcus got away with all of these robberies if they kept posing as the same guys throughout every mall they went to. Wouldn’t somebody eventually realize that these guys are stealing from every mall they go to and try to put out a notice? Another problem with this flick is that I never understood why Willie didn’t just go back to his hotel after he waited all of that time for the “cops” to get out of there. However, I guess I’m just being a dick once again.
Billy Bob Thornton probably gives one of his best comedic performances of all-time as Willie. Willie is an alcoholic, pisses in his suit, shows up to work drunk, lies, steals money, steals cars, beats up children, treats some poor little chubby kid like a piece of crap, and bones chicks in the parking lots (not saying that there’s anything wrong with that) but somehow Thornton makes this guy seem so likable. He’s just drunk the whole time being an obnoxious dick to everyone around him but Billy Bob plays it perfectly and I just wished that he would get more roles that were more about him being a low-life dick rather than a sophisticated, more civilized dick.
Tony Cox is very fun to watch as Marcus, because not only does his character get a little dark by the end but him and Thornton have great chemistry together that carries on perfectly throughout the whole film. The rest of the cast includes Bernie Mac playing a cocky mall cop, Cloris Leachman playing a Grandmom who just wants to make sandwiches, and the late John Ritter playing a nosy mall manager.
Consensus: Though there are some moral voids in Bad Santa, there is still some very funny black comedy that works well with the plot, and with Billy Bob Thornton’s dark but somehow likable performance as Willie.