At first I thought it was clever, then I hated it, then I realized that I’d been laughing the whole time, and by the end I realized that I’d really enjoyed it.
Such was my reaction to Bad Santa. I really didn’t know much about the movie going in. I mean, I knew that Billy Bob Thornton played a crude department store Santa, and that Tony Cox played his elf, and that Bernie Mac was in it. That’s about it. As it turns out Thornton and Cox play professional thieves who use their Santa & Elf guises to case and gain access to department stores around the country, before robbing them after closing on Christmas Eve.
What I didn’t disliked about the movie really came down to plausibility, Thornton’s Willie Stokes is such a crass degenerate alcoholic who makes virtually no effort to hide it, that I had a hard time believing that he’d last an hour at a major department store, much less all the way ’till Christmas Eve. It took a while, but I was eventually able to suspend my disbelief, but it took some doing. Eventually the movie’s deeper plot, concerning Willie’s inadvertently befriending an odd little kid (Brett Kelly) and I was able to at least accept the film’s version of reality enough to enjoy the rest of the movie.
I should point out that what I watched was actually the 88 minute Director’s Cut of the film, (not to be confused with the 99 minute extended cut, or the 91 minute theatrical cut,) which apparently has a significantly darker tone, and a slightly different ending than the other versions. Based on what I’ve read about the differences,I think that I would have enjoyed the other versions less than this one, which ended just about as well as it possibly could have, and maintained a consistent darkly comedic tone throughout.