Bad Santa (Terry Zwigoff, 2003)
A miserable conman (Billy Bob Thornton) and his partner (Tony Cox) pose as Santa and his Little Helper to rob department stores on Christmas Eve. But they run into problems when the conman befriends a troubled kid (Brett Kelly), and the security boss (Bernie Mac) discovers the plot.
Terry Zwigoff was a director I was looking forward to discover and his films like Crumb, Ghost World, Art School Confidential received some praise and a certain cult. I knew that Bad Santa was also a film considered as cult, but I think that despite the fact that the holidays are coming it was probably not the best film to discover this filmmaker. Far from being a total mess, it is in the vein of The Big Lebowski, remember that Bad Santa was produced by the Coen brothers, it is way far vulgar and its plot isn’t as rich and great as The Dude’s.
The fact that the protagonist is a pathetic loser is established and during almost the first hour of the movie it is only about his bad behaviors and his vulgarity. Some vulgarity can be funny and offensive to some people but with the right dosage it can be very efficient. However, in this case it loses all its impact after it is established and proved many times. A rewrite of the script to tighten the story and maybe involve more humanity in this loser to help gain more sympathy from the audience could have help and might have made it more watchable. It is also very difficult to dose this right when you don’t want to fall too much into the commercial territory and make a family entertainment, which it is not and was destined to an adult audience. It is also post-modernist in it’s over cynical way of destroying the Christmas myth by setting the holidays in Arizona where there is obviously no winter or whatsoever.
Finally, I must mention that I watched the Bader Santa version and I was prepared for some vulgarity and obscenity. In fact, it was not worse than a Hangover movie. On the comedic side it has its moments and even if vulgarity doesn’t make me laugh, it is hard to also offense me. I was clearly not offended, just a little bored by those characters that didn’t really hooked on my screen. Well executed and it also wants to bring a different angle on the traditional Christmas movie. Worth a look.