Starring: Billy Bob Thornton, John Ritter, Tony Cox, Brett Kelly, Lauren Graham, Bernie Mac
Director: Terry Zwigoff
Willie (Thornton) is a pretty bad Santa. He swears, he drinks, he pisses himself and he hates Christmas and kids. But he’s not a mall Santa for the good of his health – he does it for his bank balance. Each year, along with elf sidekick Marcus (Cox) and vampy Asian Lois (Lauren Tom), Willie cracks the safe of the mall he happens to be working in and then lives off the proceeds until the next festive season.
He’s a terminal loser, dogged by memories of his abusive childhood and unable to lift himself out of what seems to be a terminal rut. By the time they hit Phoenix for their latest scam, Willie has got even worse – more drunk and more abusive than usual. But things are a little better than usual. His womanising ways have been tempered by sweet but sexy bar-girl Sue (Graham) and he’s moved in to the house of an obsessive kid (Brett Kelly) and his senile grandmother. But mall manager Bob Chipeska (Ritter) is horrified by Willie’s behaviour and asks mall security man Gin (Mac – “Oceans Eleven”) to investigate.
Will Gin catch the gang out before Christmas Eve – and maybe more importantly will any of the seasonal goodwill rub off on Willie?
Although it’s something of a one-joke movie, “Bad Santa” is a viewing pleasure that’s frequently amusing, and occasionally laugh-out loud, entertainment. Placing a fish out of water is a plot device that can fall on its face just as much as it succeeds. But thankfully director Terry Zwigoff pulls it off by building around Thornton’s expert portrayal and keeping sentimentality to a minimum. There’s very little that misses the mark. John Ritter stars here in his last role before his untimtely death in 2003 and does a great job playing a timid mall manager who tiptoes around like an ant stranded at an anteater’s social event might.
This isn’t a conventional Christmas movie and it’s certainly not for the family. Don’t let the title put you off – just go see “Bad Santa” and another fine performance from one of the most atypical A-list stars around.