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Bad Santa Review (Christmas Special)

It’s the start of the second week of Advent today, which means another Christmas Special review. This time I am writing about a rather peculiar Christmas movie; I am talking about Bad Santa.

Genre: Christmas/Comedy/Drama

Director: Terry Zwigoff

Cast: Billy Bob Thornton, Tony Cox, Brett Kelly, Lauren Graham, Bernie Mac, Lauren Tom & John Ritter.

Run Time: 91 min.

US Release: 26 November 2003

UK Release: 05 November 2004

German Release: 18 November 2004

Zwigoff’s Christmas comedy is a rather distinctive one and it is more for those people who stand critical towards the upcoming winter holiday. Nevertheless Bad Santa is one of my favourite Christmas films, starring an amazing Billy Bob Thornton and an incredible hot Lauren Graham. It may not be the typical lovey-dovey, snow filled holiday picture people are used to around this time of year, but it does have a message by the end of the film and it is hilariously entertaining throughout its length.

The movie had some creative issues during its production, with Terry Zwigoff and the writers having trouble to get the tone of the script right while creative differences between Zwigoff, the Coen Brothers and the Weinstein Company made filming very difficult. The Weinsteins even went as far as to film additional scenes with a different director, without the knowledge of Zwigoff.

Bill Murray was originally supposed to play Thornton’s role, but was already filming Lost in Translation. This was also John Ritter’s last movie before he died in September 2003.

Nevertheless, these issues didn’t stop the film from getting moderately good reviews by most critics, who praised Thornton's acting and the rude and offensive black comedic tone of this anti-Christmas movie. Even if not for everyone,Bad Santa is a very well written and executed comedy, including an actual happy ending.


Willie T. Stokes (Billy Bob Thornton), an alcoholic and sex addict, and his dwarfed assistant Marcus (Tony Cox) are two professional thieves, who disguises themselves every year as the department store Santa Claus and his elf, in order to rob the shopping malls at Christmas night.

At the Saguaro Square Mall in Phoenix, Willie is visited by Thurman Merman (Brett Kelly), a friendly but naive and overweight boy who thinks Willie is the really Santa and is taunted and bullied by a skateboarding gang. At a bar, Willie meets Sue (Lauren Graham) the bar keeper, who has a Santa Claus fetish, and the two begin a sexual relationship.

One night, Willie gives Thurman a ride home, where he lives alone with his senile grandmother. Thurman reveals that his mother died, and his father is in prison. Willie takes advantage of Thurman’s naivety to let him live in his house.

On Christmas Eve, during the heist, Willie goes to get Thurman a pink stuffed elephant that he had wanted for Christmas. Marcus then reveals to Willie that he intends on killing him, because he became careless. Just as Marcus is about to shoot Willie, the police swarm the mall, tipped off by a letter Willie gave to Thurman. Willie flees, chased by the police, intending to give Thurman his present.

This Christmas picture is not afraid to state things as they are and doesn’t make any compromises. It is as rude as it can get and doesn’t soften its characters in anyway, simply portraying them how they are. But what I like most aboutBad Santa is that behind all the rude and insulting dialogue there is a message about the ever so growing and partially disgusting consumerism people show on Christmas, which is magnified by companies and the media.

I was surprised at how funny this movie was, laughing from beginning to end. It is not that I am not a fan of this type of humour; I do like Family Guy and am a great fan of South Park and although this movie had a similar tone to those comedy series, it was different and original.

Billy Bob Thornton was absolutely fantastic as Willie T. Stokes, a beat down nobody with an alcohol and sex addiction. His whole life revolves around whiskey, sex and robbing houses or malls, that is until Thurman comes into his life and shows him that there is more to living than just self loathing. In some sort of way Thurman resembles the adult Willie, just without the alcohol and sex problem.

Brett Kelly did a heartbreaking performance as the overweight kid Thurman, who stalked Willie a.k.a. Santa around the Arizona suburbs. He is a broken child, who has neither friends nor family; the only one looking out for him is his semi-comatose grandmother. When Willie walks into his life, Thurman believes to have finally found a friend and purpose in his life.

This might also be Tony Cox’s best performance given to date. He is not a particularly good actor but he really nailed the role as Marcus. I loved every scene he was in, throwing around those smart-ass and insulting speeches. Lauren Graham was rather eye candy for the male viewer, but her character is also the one that brings a little Christmas spirit into the lives of Willie and Thurman.

The musical score contrasted the bleak reality that is Willie’s life, a metaphor for the fact that not every person on the planet has a happy holiday as depicted in most Christmas films.


Verdict: Bad Santa is a very different Christmas movie, but one I do cherish and watch every year during X-mas time. This is not a family-friendly holiday comedy, it is rated R for strong language, sexual content and violence, giving the whole Christmas season a macabre but hilarious twist. This movie is best enjoyed with friends or alone and I will give it an 8.5 out of 10.

So are you a fan of Bad Santa, or do you prefer the lovey-dovey Christmas pictures that are normally screened? Comment below and if you enjoyed this review, like it and share it. Next Sunday I will be reviewing one of my all-time favourite animated movies, The Nightmare Before Christmas.

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