There’s nothing wrong with dark comedy. Some of the funniest movies to come along were completely devoid of any sort of lightheartedness or optimism.
Juxtaposing one of these pitch-dark comedies against the Christmas season, normally the most annoyingly pure and happy times of the year, is an inspired idea to say the least. Unfortunately, Bad Santa is a film that becomes so preoccupied with being dark, there is ultimately little else there, and the movie eventually leaves the viewer feeling empty.
The film tells the story of Willie (Billy Bob Thornton), who along with his little person sidekick, Marcus (Tony Cox), get a job in a different mall every year as Santa and an elf, respectively, before robbing the place blind Christmas Eve.
Willie’s deadbeat father apparently taught him how to crack safes, and Marcus basically handles every other area of the scam. The trouble is, Willie is a mess, to put it mildly. Every year, his drinking gets worse. He shows up for work sloppy, if at all.
He also enjoys big-boned women, and just making a spectacle of himself in general. This year, in Phoenix, Willie has reached his ultimate nadir.
He begins living with a nerdy young man who believes Willie is actually Santa (Brett Kelly), and his senile old grandmother.
In addition to this, Gin, the mall chief of security (Bernie Mac), has become wise to their scheme, and now wants a cut of the money.
The main problem with the film is it is not very funny in general. There are a few stand-alone hilarious moments, but they are few and far between.
Seeing a man dressed as Santa get drunk and utter profanities may elicit a chuckle the first time around, but around the 15th time, it is worth little more than a yawn.
To its credit, the movie stays consistent in tone until the very end. While the ending isn’t exactly pitch dark, it is still not anything close to a happy ending.
This may be good in theory, but it still raises the question of why these 90 minutes of misogyny and dirty humor need to exist in the first place. If it were hilariously funny, like say, the South Park movie, that would have been one thing, but most of the humor falls flat.
This is easily the low point in director Terry Zwigoff’s young career. Zwigoff managed to meld Bad Santa’s black humor with respect for the characters. But for those looking for a good Christmas movie this year, Elf is unquestionably a better choice.
Chuck DelRoss can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org