Friday, October 22, 2004

Bad Santa, Not Your Typical Christmas Movie

Ho, Ho, Ho, Ruth. I totally disagree with your Bah Humbug. “Bad Santa” is the funniest movie I’ve seen in years, and is now my favorite Christmas movie.

I don’t know from Billy Bob Thornton. I had never seen a movie with Billy Bob before. All I knew about him was (1) he broke up with Angelina Jolie, and (2) he liked weird tattoos. I might be able to forgive the latter but never the former. I was hoping his bad judgment wouldn’t extend to his movie, Bad Santa.

Billy Bob's character is the poorest excuse for Santa you would ever want to meet. When you meet him, he’s absolutely horrible to the kids, totally irresponsible, sloppy drunk, and held together by his partner (in crime, it turns out), Marcus, played by actor Tony Cox. There are a few surprises in the plot, but frankly, I was beginning to think it was a one-note play until The Kid showed up.

The Kid is one of the most unusual characters you’ll ever meet in a movie. His father went to prison for a white collar crime (a small but funny role by Ethan Phillips), so he left his mother and his son to fend for themselves in their nice upper middle-class house. Unfortunately, Grandma is on the cruel side of Alzheimer’s, offering everyone sandwiches every few seconds, and The Kid has to figure out adolescence by himself. He is not doing well. He is clueless.

The changes Billy Bob’s Santa undergoes towards the end of the film wouldn’t be believable if it weren’t for his interaction with this totally serious but helpless boy, played with such great intensity by newcomer Brett Kelly.

This movie was such a laughfest for me that I watched the DVD highlights immediately afterwards. Watching Billy Bob and the Round Table pizza guy do the same scene over and over, Santa sparring with the store’s security officer, was double-over belly-laugh funny. And Tony Cox is even funnier in outtakes, once he doesn’t have to be the short straight man.

Ruth, I wish you could have seen the same film I saw, a very funny film that escapes predictability once Santa becomes once again emotionally engaged with the human race. This film is definitely a thumb’s up.


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