Billy Bob Thornton has found the role of a lifetime - playing a miserable and vulgar drunk of a conman who poses as Santa Claus to rob from the department stores where he works. Bad Santa is not for children, nor for anyone who has a limited tolerance for crudeness, but for the rest of us, it is a nice little gift under the tree.
Thornton plays the role to perfection, seemingly having great fun boozing, cussing, screwing and stealing his way through the Christmas season. It is a little offsetting that he has absolutely no moral conscience whatsoever, but then again it is mighty entertaining. Some might not appreciate that his character never really improves over the course of the film, though he does just a little bit with the help of a strange little fat kid, played superbly by Brett Kelly. Throw in a beautiful bartender (Lauren Graham) who gets sexually aroused by Santa, and he's definitely got some reasons to pull his life out of the gutter (but not before pissing in his pants several times).
Tony Cox is hilarious as Thornton's right hand man - the movie does a good job of taking advantage of his dwarf status without making fun of it. Cox is one of the highlights of the movie. Bernie Mac, in a much smaller role, really doesn't get enough time to flex his comedic muscles, but the late John Ritter, in just a few small scenes, is funny to the bone.
Some people will not appreciate the comedy of Bad Santa as it almost completely relies on crudeness and vulgarity, but as those kinds of movies go, it is top notch. Bad Santa is not a toilet humor kind of film, one of those movies that relies on fart jokes to get through the screenplay. No, Bad Santa has wit to it, but not everyone will see it.
Bad Santa has many hilarious moments and the rest of the movie is mightily entertaining as well. If Santa really did exist I would guess that he wouldn't appreciate it too much, but, since he doesn't, we can easily say that Bad Santa is one of the funnier movies of 2003.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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