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"Bad Santa" Review

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Title: Bad Santa

Starring: Billy Bob Thornton, Bernie Mac, Lauren Graham, John Ritter, Brett Kelly

Written by: John Requa, Glenn Ficarra

Directed by: Terry Zwigoff

Rating: R for pervasive language, strong sexual content and some violence.


Review by Stephen Silver

Despite quite a few laugh-out-loud moments that nearly redeem it, Terry Zwigoff's Christmas anti-classic "Bad Santa" is just a bit too reprehensible to be good.

Yes, the traditions and the cliches of the Hollywood Christmas movie certainly are in need of a righteous skewering. But "Bad Santa" goes so far over the top that it ends up too creepy and disturbing to be funny.

Billy Bob Thornton stars as a depressed, alcoholic, perverted, law-breaking mall Santa, who along with his wisecracking African-American dwarf accomplice (Tony Cox) runs a scam in which the two break work in a different shopping mall each holiday season and rob the safe on Christmas Eve.

But not only does the plot have a smart-aleck dwarf/elf, but also finds room for an extremely creepy fat kid who begins stalking Thornton, as well as bartender (Lauren Graham) with a Santa fetish. Rounding out the cast are Bernie Mac as the mall's head of security, and John Ritter (in his final screen role) as an excessively PC-consious mall manager.

There's some very funny stuff here, especially Cox's lines and parts of the Thornton performance. And it's humorous that Cox is only in the crime business to service his hypermaterialistic, non-dwarf wife. But so much of the film's humor crosses over the "comedy" line into the "nihilistic offensiveness" line, especially the scene in which Thornton stumbles drunkenly into a crowd of children. And the entire subplot involving the kid is too annoying to elicit any laughs.

Many critics have praised 'Santa' for its irreverence and refusal to follow the rules of mainstream Hollywood, and for that it's to be commended. But that doesn't mean it's funny for a man dressed as Santa Claus to drunkenly scream at and vomit on kids. It's extremely rare for a mainstream film to offend me, but "Bad Santa" did.

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