Sunday, April 1, 2012

3 Short Paragraphs: Bad Santa

2003, Terry Zwigoff (Ghostworld, Art School Confidential) -- download

Yes, the last of the Xmas movies from... well, just before Xmas.  This was the unexpected choice as I usually shy away from movies about completely unlikeable people.  Remember Billy Bob's unlikeable American president in Love, Actually ?  I thought that was the perfect Billy Bob character because I generally think that is the way he is.  So, escalate that personality as a nasty, criminal Santa, and I am cringing.  But I was also curious as I have heard a lot of good things about the movie.  I did not know that it was by the same guy as a handful of movies I really liked, in fact, I liked all of this other movies.

Billy Bob plays a criminal, a thug in a Santa suit who insinuates himself into a shopping mall with his equally criminal sidekick elf.  They set their place dealing with cranky kids and demanding moms but once the season is just about done, they spend a night in the mall and rob it blind.  I am not sure if malls would actually retain a massive safe full of money, as I always thought each store handles their own deposits, but that is what they do, along with a long shopping list filled.  Really, if you are robbing a mall, wouldn't you also just do your own complete list of shopping?

Now, Billy Bob's Willie is completely despicable.  He is a drunk, he is nasty, he swears and he is just astoundingly crass.  He abuses the kids, mouths off to everyone and can barely hold it together long enough to do the job.  He pisses himself.  There is absolutely nothing to make you root for this character. And yet, as things progress in the current Xmas caper, you kind of do.  He gets wrapped up in the life of a ... well, the most politically correct thing you can say is a mentally challenged kid.  But really he is more just a very very damaged young boy.  Willie might just be living in the kid's house as a place to stay and completely taking advantage of him but I think it's because he actually sees the kid is even more messed up than Willie sees himself, that he actually tries to help the kid, ever so faintly.  We never should actually like Willie but compared to his homicidal partner and the crazy mall security head who tries to find the evidence of what Willie and the elf (ok, dwarf actually) are up to, we kind of do.  The movie was worth the cringes I felt and it was actually as well done as I would expect from the director.