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Bad Santa

Bad Santa

What She said:

He

Willie Stokes (Billy Bob Thornton) is a thief with a very specific con. Every year – along with his partner Marcus – he finds temporary work at a mall playing Santa. Being a little person, Marcus (Tony Cox) plays the helper elf, but his real job is getting into small places and sneaking around unnoticed. On Christmas Eve the two of them hid in the mall until it closes and then rob it. This is where Willie comes in. He’s good at cracking safes and other similar type of things.

If his profession isn’t bad enough, Willie is just a downright miserable guy. He is a drunk and tough to be around. Even his partner doesn’t like him, but they are a good team, so he puts up with him. How mean is Willie? Well let me tell you. Like any other mall Santa, Willie comes into contact with lots of kids. One of those kids (played by Brett Kelly) takes a liking to “Santa”. Thurman (the kid) is well…. he’s not all there. He visits the mall almost everyday to see Willie despite the fact Willie isn’t very nice to him. And almost every day he visits the mall, he is the target of some bullying by a bunch of punks. So one night Thurman ends up helping Willie out of a situation and Willie offers to give him a ride home. While driving the kid home, Willie discovers he lives with his elderly grandmother (played by Cloris Leachman). Not only does Willie decide to crash at their place, but he’s planning to rob them as well. Yeah, that’s just how much of a miserable human being he is.

Bad Santa

Over the course of the holiday season, some cracks start to form in Willie’s hard exterior. He’s still horrible to Thurman, but when he sees just how pathetic the kid is (in dealing with the bullies who torture him daily), he starts to pity the kid. He tries to give him some advice, teach him how to fight, etc. He also meets a lady friend. One night while at a local bar, he hits it off with the bartender. Sue (Lauren Graham) seems like a pretty nice gal, so you have to wonder why she’s interested in a Grinch like Willie, but you also get the vibe she isn’t the brightest bulb. She also seems to have a thing for bad boys.

Billy Bob Thornton is downright hilarious terrible human being that is Willie. Willie lives for his Christmas Eve jobs, because he is content spending the rest of the year getting drunk or finding a lady friend for the evening (though I’d say alcohol is his one true love).

The supporting cast also pulls their weight. Thornton’s interactions with his partner Marcus are hilarious. The two have this dynamic of an old married couple. They might not really like one another, but they have a dynamic that works for them. Brett Kelly was excellent as the moronic, but totally loveable Thurman. I can see how he could annoy some people – particularly a miserable SOB like Willie with no people skills – but I just wanted to take the kid under my wing. Even when I was laughing at him, I still wanted to help him gain a little confidence (particularly with the bullies). Cloris Leachman is also great in her small role as the kid’s Grandmother. She plays a similar role on Raising Hope right now, and just seems to have a knack for playing crazy old ladies. The movie also has two great supporting performances by two great comedic actors, who have unfortunately left us too early. John Ritter plays Willie and Marcus’ boss and he is sickened by Willie as a person, and is just looking for a reason to fire him. Bernie Mac plays the head of security at the mall who Ritter’s character reaches out to when he suspects something is up with Willie. The two of them are really funny in this movie.

If you don’t mind comedies that are dark – if not cruel at times – give this one a shot. I had heard of it, but never knew a whole lot about it. I was surprised at just how funny it was.

Rating: Thumbs up.

This movie review was written for your reading pleasure on January 13, 2013.