Bad Santa comes to Blu Ray

Friday, 14 November 2008 10:15

The featurette on this Blu Ray disc is entitled “Not your typical Christmas movie”. A review could leave it at that, but it would be a criminal disservice to such an unusual film. “Bad Santa” is a twisted comedic antidote to the avalanche of saccharin-sweet, “fun for all the family” films that get released every December. It is also a movie that is most certainly not for kids!

Billy Bob Thornton stars as Willie, a nomadic, down-and-out shopping mall Santa. He is joined by Marcus (Tony Cox), his vertically-challenged elven helper, and together they plan an annual big score in the self-same store that hires them.

Bad Santa comes to Blu RayWhilst Marcus does at best an average job of keeping the kiddies happy whilst the duo secretly plan the robbery, Willie would effortlessly win the title of “World’s Worst Santa”. He is a drunken, womanising, foul-mouthed and self-loathing excuse for a man, let alone the archetypal smiling, warm-hearted Santa we all know and love. Day in, day out, he turns up late for work, with a bottle of spirit in one hand, and a flea-bitten fake beard in the other.

Marcus’ efforts to keep his buddy in check and their profile low fail to have the slightest impact, but somehow they manage to muddle through. This is partly thanks to the ineptitude of those around them, but also because they craftily use Marcus’ diminutive stature as a device for blackmailing anyone who cottons on, and threatens to fire or report them.

Just when you think Willie’s life has hit rock bottom, two more dysfunctional characters enter the scene, and make things more complicated. One is Sue (Lauren Graham), a barmaid with a bizarre hankering for men in Santa costumes; the other is a rotund boy with the implausible name of “Thurman Merman”. Bullied by the other kids and living with just his granny, Thurman (Brett Kelly) latches onto Willie, and they gradually form one of cinema’s most unusual friendships. It helps that all of Willie’s indiscretions and his uncaring nature appear to go straight over Thurman’s head!

Tightly directed by Terry Zwigoff (“Ghost World”), “Bad Santa” is in equal parts laugh out-loud funny, and grimace-inducing. Billie Bob does a superb job of playing a jaded bum. He is always convincing as a hard-core drunk (rumour has it he might not always have been acting!), and effortlessly carries off the persona of someone who cares so little for his own life that everyone else around him barely registers.

The dialog between Willie and Marcus is commonly expletive-heavy (the F-word is uttered 170 times!) and it is clear that these two men are not exactly “thick as thieves”. Special mention should be awarded to the late John Ritter (it was his final film), who evidently embraced the part of a pathetic and very prim General Manager at the store, and Bernie Mac as the security chief who senses something’s not quite right about our costume-sporting duo.

Kelly’s wonderful portrayal of Thurman steals the show, though. He plays the quirky but endearing fat kid with such gusto, and comes across with such impossible naivety that every scene of his will have the viewer in stitches. The contrast between Willie’s scathing bleakness and Thurman’s unflinching adoration forms the captivating heart of the movie. The characterisation is brilliantly crafted; the young boy appears to be virtually bullet-proof in a world of bullies and stone-cold adults.

Though not an immediately obvious choice for the Blu Ray, high-def treatment, “Bad Santa” does benefit from decent picture clarity and excellent soundtrack reproduction, lifting it above the DVD version.

Despite the film’s filthy tone, the soundtrack is a sparkling mixture of light classical works and traditional Christmas songs, and it is presented in Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround sound. The disk includes the aforementioned featurette, along with a collection of deleted scenes, a blooper-reel and trailers.

The recommended retail price is £17.99 (or less from, and it has a ‘15’ Certificate.

Last modified on Thursday, 10 May 2012 16:37

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