Back in 2003 when BAD SANTA first hit theatres, Tamara and I went to a late night show and about fell out of our chairs laughing. As someone who loves everything about Christmas, it was the perfect nasty, offensive, dirty holiday joke ever played on yuletide audiences expecting a holiday movie.
Thankfully it holds up just as nastily as mandatory yearly late night viewing at home.
Billy Bob Thornton is Willie, a profane, alcoholic safe cracker who poses each year as St Nick to gain access to department store safes stuffed with holiday cash.
His partner in crime is the diminutive Marcus, who plays Elf to Willie's Santa and manages to slide through plenty of air ducts to get to security panels and alarm systems.
Tony Cox plays Marcus with quick wit, fast fists and a never ending bag of one liners.
As Christmas nears, our guys run into several hilarious obstacles. First is a VERY funny John Ritter as a department store manager very sensitive to profanity and suspicious of our duo. Ritter delivers a terrific performance, squirming as he repeats some of Willie's behaviors to his security chief Gin, played to perfection by Bernie Mac.
Lauren Graham has a ton of fun (and backseat and Jacuzzi yuletide passion with Willie) as a bartender with a thing for Santa and young Brett Kelly is fearless as The Kid, a pudgy, snot-dripping, curly headed shy victim of bullies who finds a special bond with Willie, who soon finds himself living with The Kid and his half-there grandmother (Cloris Leachman) in their sprawling suburban Phoenix home.
If that sounds like the film treads into "feel good" territory, fear not. Director Terry Zwigoff (Ghost World, Crumb) and writers Glenn Ficarra and John Requa (Crazy Stupid Love, Focus) have crafted a story that's decidedly more filled with attempted suicide, murder, fist fights and loud sex than sugar plums and brightly wrapped gifts.
Bad Santa is a dark, decadent gift of jet black comedy with Thornton's all-in, nasty performance at its center. As usual, Thornton is brilliant. Does any American actor do sarcasm better than Billy Bob? I can't think of one.
If you're looking for a family holiday treat, leave this one buried under the tree. If you need a nasty, twisted, dark and dirty holiday present, pull BAD SANTA out of Willie's dirty, puke-stained Santa bag. It gets an A every year!
Followed in 2016 by Bad Santa 2.