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The International Writers Magazine
:Review of Bad Santa 2003

Directed by: Terry Zwigoff
Writers: Glenn Ficarra, John Requa
Starring: Billy Bob Thornton, Tony Cox, Brett Murphy,
Bernie Mac, Lauren Graham, John Ritter
Length: 91 minutes
Genre: Comedy

It has come to that time of year again, 'tis the season to be drunk. Trust America to give us Willie (Billy Bob Thornton) as a mean spirited alcoholic who’s been robbing shopping malls, under cover as Mr. Christmas himself, Santa Claus. Accompanying Willie in this all out robbing spree is ‘little person’ Marcus (Tony Cox), an elf with attitude. Every Christmas Eve they score big and every year Willie is totally broke again having drunk every last dollar.

As years pass, Willie begins to loose his grip, he shows up drunk at the grotto and he arouses the suspicions of the Mall manager, played by John Ritter (in his last role.) Interest aroused, the "Mall" security guy (Bernie Mac) gets in their way. He discovers the truth about them, but doesn't give them away, instead he demands half their takings. But this doesn’t go too well for him as he crosses the wrong elf - the one with the evil girlfriend.

But in the true spirit of Christmas (and of course Hollywood) two unexpected guests make an appearance that will turn things around. First Thermun Mermun (Brett Murphy) the innocent but oh so irritating obese child who believes Willie is the real Father Christmas. Secondly a bar lady (Lauren Graham), who has a thing for men in Santa outfits and falls (somewhat inexplicably) for reprobate Willie himself.

These two individuals have an insightful affect on Willie and with this they help him find a way to some kind of salvation. Willie isn't past saving, but it's an uphill struggle. Look out for the scene when Willie tries to teach the kid to box.

What’s good about this film?
The whole concept is brilliant, it’s good not to see a cheesy American Christmas movie. It doesn't even have a happy ending, well not very happy anyway. Finally a Christmas movie for cyncial teenagers instead of the normally "family films" you always get.
There are a few good laughs in the film and Billy Bob Thornton and the rest of the stars put in an excellent performances.

What’s wrong with this film?
The story is just so predicable and even though there are a few laughs, for a 90-minute film it doesn’t hold your attention and I found myself bored in some places. Even though the concept was good, it needed a stronger storyline to go with it. Even a swearing, fornicating, drunk Santa gets boring after a while.

Overall I think Bad Santa was patchy with only a few laughs throughout the whole thing.
It will appeal to the teenage audience, it’s definitely not for the youngsters, it would kill their Christmas sprit. (Take them to Polar Express instead.)
The average Scrooge in the world would like this film, anyone who is already fed up of Christmas before it evens get to December.
Now on general release in the UK December 2004

© Rebecca Francis December 2004
Rebecca Francis is studying Media at Portsmouth University

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