This holiday, Santa is sleeping with Mrs. Claus’ sister
and getting into a different kind of ho-ho-hoing. Without his jolly
demeanor, Willie (Billy Bob Thornton), the anti-Santa, is a skinny
washout, guzzling alcohol by the gallon. Terry Zwigoff
(“Ghost World”) directs this twisted portrayal of
Christmas in “Bad Santa.”

Kate Green
Courtesy of Dimension
Coffee makes me nervous when I drink it. Mmm hmm.

Willie and Marcus (Tony Cox, “Friday”) land jobs as
Santa and his elf, respectively, at various malls only to rob them
after their 30-day stint. But when the two end up at a mall in
Phoenix, their plan derails. Thanks to the illustrious reputation
of Santa, Willie swindles his way into the pants of warm-hearted
bartender Sue (Laura Graham, “Gilmore Girls”) and the
home of a timid little boy (Brett Kelly).

The tubby face of Kelly, who’s lovingly referred to as
“the kid” (which is far better than his given name of
Thurman Merman) steals the screen. He’s so persistent in his
questions and his advent calender, it’s hard not to cry for
him. Under false pretenses, Anti-Santa befriends the lonely naive
kid. The story, although simple and sweet, manages to avoid most of
the schmaltz thanks to its dark humor and the biggest wedgie
ever.

In almost every scene, Thornton grates on your tolerance, as his
humor is overdone and repetitive. The flavorful supporting cast
deserves all the comedy credit. Bernie Mac as the head security
guard is decked out in lavishly colored suits that match the
oranges he’s always eating. Mac shows off a different side of
his talent by relying on his body language for once, as opposed to
one-liners.

Weighing in at three feet, 92 pounds, Cox is the perfect size
for every feat. As a bitter thief who takes care of business, Cox
is finally making the “small people” jokes and not just
the butt of all the laughs as he was in his former movies.

And not to be forgotten is John Ritter as the moral and anal
mall manager. His lack of authority seems straight out of
“Office Space.” His puckered-up facial expressions
compliment his scenes with Mac’s lax demeanor. These dynamics
between the characters bring humor to the film. Whether it’s
people wanting to see Ritter’s last on-screen appearance or
looking for a not so sugary Christmas tale, “Bad Santa”
gets laughs with its cast, sans Billy Bob Thornton of course.

Rating: 3 1/2 stars

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