Bad Santa contains 173 usages of the word “fuck”. A few of these f-words are used by Lauren Graham in ecstasy, as she writhes in pleasure atop a red-suited Billy Bob Thornton moaning “fuck me Santa, fuck me Santa, fuck me Santa” in rhythm to his thrusts. Some of the time it’s used by Tony Cox as elfin-eared Marcus, arguing endlessly with his useless, drunken, partner in the only way he could possibly understand. Occasionally it’s shouted by Bernie Mac, as he shakes down kids at the Gamestop or eats fruit with his cowboy boots propped up on his desk. It’s never said by John Ritter, playing a manager so paralyzed by political correctness, he’s unable even to decide if it’s right for his newly hired mall Santa to fornicate with large women in the plus-size dressing room. When Willie’s through with them, they ain’t gonna shit right for a week. But most of the time, at least 100 of those 173 times, the word is said by Billy Bob Thornton’s Willie who, is usually too drunk to bother saying anything else.
We get hints of what Willie was like before he began spending his Christmases plotting robberies while disguised as an eating, drinking, shitting, fucking Santy Claus, and he wasn’t any better than the man he is now. It’s safe to assume that Willie has always lived his life by the three Bs (that’s booze, bullshit, and butt-fucking). Director Terry Zwigoff’s masterpiece of depravity captures Willie at a crossroads. He’ll either turn things around or kill himself. The world would probably be a better place if he killed himself, but Willie is such a loser he can’t even pull that off, so Bad Santa is about him turning it all around. Well, sort of. Willie’s big breakthrough happens when he beats up a bunch of kids. The thing is, he beat them up for a purpose.
Willie’s never really done anything for a purpose before. He wanders through life simply taking whatever’s there to grab, leering at whatever there is to be leered at, drinking whatever there is to drink. The notion of actually having a reason for doing the things that he’s done seems like a revelation to Willie. Not that it’ll change him all that much really. To say the film’s about him turning it around was giving him too much credit. I’m pretty sure Willie’s soul is dogshit and besides, this isn’t that kind of Christmas movie.
Instead this is a dark and disturbed Christmas comedy for everyone who’s sick of being forced to listen to some lounge-singer version of jingle bells when they walk through the grocery store. This is not a movie for the broad-shouldered, ruddy-cheeked checkout girl who, when asked whether she’s sick of being stuck there and forced to listen to all that Christmas music responds enthusiastically, “oh I love it I have it tuned in on the radio in my car and at home too.” This is the Christmas movie to watch when you just can’t fucking take this holiday anymore. It’s the movie to watch when the kids are tucked away in bed, with sugarplums dancing in their heads, and you need relief from all this giving and holiday spirit brainwashing, but have unfortunately just run out of scotch and discover the liquor store is closed on Christmas. Bad Santa will have to do, in a pinch.
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