I can’t believe that Bad Santa (or Badder Santa, whatever version you prefer) is almost 15 years old. It’s one of the funniest films that I’ve ever seen. It never gets old. It only gets funnier with each viewing. There’s a diseased sense of misanthropy running through the rotted heart of this cheerfully vulgar film, and while it’s got a bit of warmth tucked into its nooks and crannies, this wild slice of comedy ranks as one of the more transgressive cinematic offerings that have come along in many years.
Billy Bob Thornton got the role of a lifetime as the ultimate drunk mall Santa, cocked out of his mind, and shambling from one disastrous personal embarrassment to the next. The numerous comedic set pieces in this film never seem like they’re competing with each other in an effort to out-due the last bit, but rather, everything is perfectly paced, with Thornton truly appearing totally schwilled all throughout this movie; it’s a sublime and bravura performance when you really boil it down.
His idea to knock off the various malls that he appears in at night with his sidekick, the insanely funny Tony Cox (this movie gets tremendous mileage out of the visual humor associated with a foul-mouthed African-American little person in an elf suit), produced all sorts of hilarity. John Ritter and Bernie Mac are both screamingly funny in their scenes, and when they appear together, the results are outrageous. And then there’s the kid, Thurman Merman, played with total innocence and deadpan charm by Brett Kelly; I’ll always wonder just how much he understood while filming, and just how much he was actually exposed to on set.
Terry Zwigoff’s acerbic direction (why doesn’t he get more work?) mixed perfectly with the hardcore-nasty screenplay by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa (they also wrote/directed the absurdly underrated I Love You, Philip Morris), while Lauren Graham makes for an almost impossibly cute/sexy romantic interest for Thornton, the sort of girl that just so happens to have a sexual fetish for Santa. And just so we’re all clear — Fraggle Stick Car POWER.
Review by Nick Clement