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Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

FILM DETAILS
Certificate
15
Cast
Billy Bob Thornton
Tony Cox
Brett Kelly
Lauren Graham
Bernie Mac
John Ritter.
Directors
Terry Zwigoff.
Screenwriters
Glenn Ficarra
John Requa.
Running Time
92 minutes

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Bad Santa
Empire decrees: ALL Christmas movies should be like this.


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Plot
Alcoholic safe-breaker Willie (Billy Bob Thornton) uses his cover as a department store Santa to rob the very same stores. But his living is thrown into jeopardy by a corrupt shop detective (Mac) and a dimwitted small boy (Kelly).


Review
Developed from an original idea from the Coen brothers, Bad Santa is a seasonal confection of vomit, piss, crime, snot, suicide, alcoholism and vigorous anal sex.

Perfect counter-programming, then, against the saccharine bilge usually secreted by studios at Christmas and a positive tonic for those of us who see this time of year as a toxic chore rather than a period imbued with "Yuletide enchantment". So why it's out on Bonfire Night will remain one of cinema's great mysteries!

Essentially, this is a one-joke movie: Santa is not an avuncular, present-delivering grandfather figure, but a dyspeptic misanthrope who we first meet vomiting against an alley wall, and who pursues his real calling as a safe-breaker aided by an only slightly less angry dwarf (brilliantly played by Tony Cox, who's adorned with a Caucasian pair of elf-ears; a sly comment, presumably, on the institutional racism rampant at the North Pole). But the joke is a good one and, more importantly, is delivered by Billy Bob Thornton, one of modern cinema's natural comic actors, while the often literally scatological dialogue is inventive and varied enough to help. On one occasion, for example, Santa listens to a child's Christmas wish before advising him, "Why don't you shit in one hand and wish in the other, see which fills up first?"

Surprisingly, there's something reminiscent of the Ealing comedies about Bad Santa. Like the best Ealings, its tale of cynical criminality terminates a (sort of) moral point. And it's here that Zwigoff pulls of a minor miracle - Santa's growing relationship with The Kid, a snot-faced tweenie with weight issues and limited intelligence, should be the moment that the movie caves in to the truly vulgar sentimentality against which it apparently stood. Instead, Bad Santa's unorthodox sweetness creeps up on you unannounced.

It wafts you out of the cinema grinning not only at lines such as, "You're not going to shit right for a week," delivered by Father Christmas during a particularly exhausting bout of bottom sex with a lady in a changing room, but because Zwigoff has actually managed to slip you a Mickey of that Christmas spirit while you weren't looking. Bastard.


Verdict
Topping off a year of above-average American comedies - Dodgeball and Anchorman being the obvious highlights - Bad Santa is a delightfully obscene alternative to the usual Christmas tosh.


Reviewed by Adam Smith

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for Bad Santa
Empire Star Rating

Billy Bob Thornton's amazing, really, really brilliant. The film is also incredibly (and, most of all, blackly) funny. Very recommendable. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by nc_jj at 05:44, 12 August 2012 | Report This Post


Some genuinely hilarious moments

"You need many years of therapy. Many, many, many, FUCKING years of therapy". Very enjoyable film. Surprisingly touching too. Great performances from Thornton, Cox, Mac and of course the late John Ritter. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Rocky4 at 09:22, 10 May 2010 | Report This Post


how very dare you!!!

anyone with just a little sense of humour knows that is a barrel full of laughs!! It may only be a one joke film, but the one joke is better than half the comedys released today, although it is not a typical christmas movie is still installs that sense of anticipation and excitement that all good christmas movies do... ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by devenden at 10:57, 13 December 2006 | Report This Post


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