A mall Santa and his “elf” rob department stores after a long day of hearing children’s Christmas lists. After a particularly good score, Billy Bob Thornton vows to stop his Bad Santa ways and head on down to retire in Miami like the good drunk he is. And he does. It’s just that he’s still a miserable SOB whose only skill is taking things that aren’t his.
Bad Santa is a proud raunchy comedy, sparking an alarming trend in holiday films. At the time (2003) it held the record for most profanities in a Christmas film: 300, over half which are fucks.
Weirdly, both Bill Murray and Jack Nicholson hoped for the role before committing to other projects. Billy Bob stepped into the title role (which was translated as “Santa is a Pervert” in the Czech Republic) and to this day he lists the filming as one of only 3 time periods he’d care to revisit (the other two being the Alamo, and 1979, when he worked for the Arkansas Highway Department. He’s a weird guy.).
Anyway, Bad Santa and his conman elf get back into business in Arizona, where the fly in their ointment is a bullied chubby kid whose family would make a great mark if only he wasn’t so endearing. Cloris Leachman, who plays the kid’s uncredited Grandma, is the only high point of the film. I watched this when it was new and didn’t care for it so colour me surprised to learn that there’s a sequel out in theatres, because apparently someone wanted that.
What I didn’t want was to see John Ritter sweating away in this last embarrassing role, or Bernie Mac constipated and not much else, but what I REALLY didn’t want to see was a Gilmore Girl awkwardly folded into the front seat of a shitbox car screaming “Fuck me, Santa!” I have recently spent time with the Gilmore Girls revival on Netflix but I have no urge to find out how much badder this Santa can get. It should be noted that Lauren Graham is NOT back for Bad Santa 2 but Oscar winner Octavia Spencer is, and she’s joined by Oscar winner Kathy Bates. Mysteries abound.