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Terry Zwigoff
Billy Bob Thornton, Tony Cox, Brett Kelly, Lauren Graham, Lauren Tom, Bernie Mac, John Ritter, Ajay Naidu
Writing Credits:
Glenn Ficarra, John Requa

A miserable conman and his partner pose as Santa and his Little Helper to rob department stores on Christmas Eve. But they run into problems when the conman befriends a troubled kid, and the security boss discovers the plot.

Box Office:
$18 million.
Opening Weekend
$12.292 million on 2005 screens.
Domestic Gross
$60.057 million.

Rated NR

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English Uncompressed PCM 5.1
English Dolby Digital 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 88 min. (Director’s Cut)
99 min. (Badder Santa Cut)
Price: $15.00
Release Date: 11/20/2007

• Audio Commentary With Director Terry Zwigoff and Editor Robert Hoffman
• Both Director’s and Badder Santa Cuts
• Roger Ebert Interview with Director Terry Zwigoff and Editor Robert Hoffman
• Deleted and Alternate Scenes
• Behind the Scenes Featurette
• Outtakes and Gag Reel
• Sneak Peeks


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


Bad Santa [Blu-Ray] (2003)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 28, 2016)

2003’s Bad Santa presents a much darker and more cynically comedic look at Christmas than we usually discover. We meet Willie (Billy Bob Thornton), a bitter, drunken ne’er-do-well who works as a department store Santa. He comes as a package with elf assistant Marcus (Tony Cox), but it turns out they don’t do the gig just for the usual pay.

Willie and Marcus use their status to case and rob the store after hours, and we also see that Marcus’ girlfriend Lois (Lauren Tom) functions as part of the racket. We soon learn that they make this a yearly concern and rob a different spot every Christmas.

Determined to go clean, Willie uses the loot to move to Miami. He wants to quit boozing and open a bar, but he fails and continues to be a drunken crook. As Christmas approaches, Marcus calls and they go back into the game.

Willie and Marcus go to work in Arizona where Bob Chipeska (John Ritter) hires them at Saguaro Square Mall. The foul-mouthed Willie upsets Bob when he makes a profane comment, and Bob soon brings his concerns to mall security chief Gin (Bernie Mac).

Tubby, nerdy eight-year-old Thurman (Brett Kelly) goes to see Santa at the mall. Despite Willie’s coarse behavior, Thurman waits for Santa after the mall closes and follows him. Willie also meets Sue (Lauren Graham), a bartender with a Santa fetish, and they do the nasty in a car.

After Sue splits, a weirdo assaults Willie in the parking lot and Thurman helps rescue him. Willie gives the boy a ride home and learns that Thurman lives only with his elderly and out of it grandma (Cloris Leachman). Willie boldly robs the place with the innocent Thurman’s unknowing approval.

Bob tries to fire Willie and Marcus, but they use political correctness related to the latter’s racial and physical attributes to keep their jobs. Nonetheless, Bob goes to Gin to get the store detective to dig up some dirt on Willie so he can axe him.

As part of this, Gin roots through Willie’s motel room, so our Santa bails and decides to move in with Thurman and Grandma. We soon learn that Thurman’s dad (Ethan Phillips) is in jail for embezzlement, which we find out when Gin realizes that Willie’s using the family home.

From there the movie follows various elements. We see the development of the relationship between Willie and Thurman, and we also watch what happens with the planned robbery. We also discover what Gin does with his information and how he deals with Willie.

Bad Santa occasionally runs the risk of turning into something crass just for the sake of offensiveness. The movie clearly falls far outside the realm of political correctness, especially via the visions of such a scummy Santa. The film easily could have turned into nothing more than sight gags connected to the disconnect between Santa and sin, and it does occasionally fall back on those bits.

However, the movie walks a fine line between darkness/nastiness that make sense and knee-jerk crudeness, and it manages to stay on the right side of that line. What makes Santa different than something tacky and lame like Road Trip or Saving Silverman is that it doesn’t attempt laughs based solely on nasty material.

Instead, Santa integrates some cleverness and spark into the comedy and doesn’t simply hope that we’ll chortle at the baseness of the situations. Granted, I can’t say that all the over the top sights here equal high comedy, but they don’t feel especially gratuitous, and as played out in the movie, they’re funny.

I worried somewhat that Santa would ultimately turn into something sappy and sentimental via the relationship between Willie and Thurman, and it nearly gets to that level. However, it manages to avoid treacle the vast majority of the time.

It helps that Willie never stops being disgusting. He warms up to the kid and demonstrates his affection for him, but he never turns into anything other than a rough dude. The movie somewhat cops out on a potentially very dark ending, but it maintains internal consistency and remains pretty crude.

A lot of the success of Santa connects to the actors, especially Thornton. He displays exceedingly little ego as Willie and totally fills the part.

Willie doesn’t come across like a slick actor playing at degradation; Thornton lends the character a broadly comic edge but still makes him believably crass and low. When Willie discusses suicidal ideation, we buy it, and the role gets a dark side that someone else might skip. Santa remains a broadly comic farce for the most part, but a certain edginess infuses it, largely thanks to Thornton.

The other actors get less to do, especially Graham. Her role feels more like a generic tacked-on love interest than an integral part of the story, and she comes and goes at random.

Kelly does nicely as Thurman, partially because he gets to have his cake and eat it too. The role allows him to parody the innocent, naïve true believer, as Thurman obsesses over Santa, but it also provides some emotional depth and lets us see his development without too much sentimentality.

Bad Santa does lose some steam toward the end. The developing relationship between Thurman and Willie gives the movie a bit of depth, but I’m still not sure that’s appropriate. It might work better if it kept Willie totally without redeeming characteristics. Still, it provides lots of laughs and maintains a nasty attitude from start to finish.

The Disc Grades: Picture B- (Badder Santa) C+ (Director’s Cut)/ Audio B-/ Bonus B

Bad Santa appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The Blu-ray presented two versions of the film – and two different transfers.

Both looked a lot alike most of the time, with one notable difference: print flaws. While Badder Santa lacked any defects, the Director’s Cut included a mix of small specks. These were minor but they cropped up periodically during the film.

Sharpness was erratic. While much of the film offered good clarity, some shots seemed softer than expected. This meant mostly accurate images with occasional exceptions. Jagged edges and moiré effects caused no problems, and I noticed no edge haloes.

Despite the dark humor of the flick, Bad Santa featured a palette that reflected its Christmas theme, and the disc replicated those tones well. The colors looked clean and distinct, and the hues always remained vibrant and lively. Black levels looked deep and rich, while shadows came across as appropriately heavy but not overly dense. The softness became the biggest issue and left both transfers as less than stellar.

The Uncompressed 5.1 soundtrack of Bad Santa provided a serviceable but unspectacular presentation. Not surprisingly, the soundfield remained heavily oriented toward the front channels.

The surrounds rarely added much, as the audio stayed largely anchored in the front. Music displayed good stereo presence, and effects spread well across the front. The surrounds added moderate reinforcement but that was it, as they didn’t contribute much to the mix.

Sound quality appeared acceptable. Speech was natural and distinct, with no issues related to edginess or intelligibility. Effects sounded clean and accurate, with good fidelity and no signs of distortion.

Music seemed nicely bright and vibrant and also demonstrated decent bass response. Overall, the audio worked fine for the movie, but due to its lack of atmospheric ambition, I felt it merited only a “B-”.

Bad Santa was available in three flavors on DVD: the “R”-rated theatrical edition, an unrated Badder Santa version, and a Director’s Cut. I never saw the theatrical Santa - and given this Blu-ray’s contents, that won’t change now.

The Blu-ray includes both Badder Santa (1:39:16) and the “Director’s Cut” (1:28:31). Badder mostly consists of scenes that extend shots from the theatrical version, though it adds a segment early in the film during which we see Willie pre-Santa mode.

As for the “Director’s Cut”, it runs even shorter than the 91-minute theatrical version. It lacks the other edition’s voiceover, and I think the “DC” seems darker than Badder. It comes across as rougher around the edges without the same form of clear comic relief. Both work well, however, and create an effective movie.

Alongside the “DC”, we find an audio commentary. This offers remarks from director Terry Zwigoff and editor Robert Hoffman. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific chat.

Zwigoff and Hoffman discuss changes made for the “Director’s Cut”, cast and performances, editing, music and sound design, sets and locations, the involvement of the Coen brothers, changes from the original script, and various scene specifics.

Despite a little dead air at times, this usually proves to be an interesting chat. We get a good number of insights into the production and learn a fair amount about the various choices. The commentary never quite threatens to become great, but it adds to our appreciation of the film.

Next comes an interview. Conducted by Roger Ebert, this chat involves Zwigoff and Hoffman and runs 27 minutes, 32 seconds. They discuss story/character areas and conflicts with the studio, alternate curs of the film, cast and performances, editing, and other aspects of Zwigoff’s career. This turns into a fairly informative piece, even though it ends in an oddly abrupt manner.

Three deleted and alternate scenes appear. We find “Santa Trainer” (1:42), “Willie Leaves Department Store” (1:49) and “Screaming Baby” (1:39).

“Santa Trainer” features a cameo from Sarah Silverman and gives us a look at Willie and others in Santa class; it would have followed the end of the opening credits. “Willie Leaves Department Store” shows alternate versions of the confrontation between Willie and the security at the movie’s first location

Finally, “Screaming Baby” cuts from a scene of violence to more of Willie on the job. Some outtakes and additional versions of the same sequences also appear. All seem reasonably entertaining but none offer anything crucial.

Note that “Florida Robbery” appeared as a deleted scene on the Director’s Cut DVD. It doesn’t reappear here because it comes as part of Badder Santa. On the other hand, “Baby” now appears as part of the Director’s Cut, so its presence as a deleted scene makes it redundant.

Next we find a Behind the Scenes Special. This runs nine minutes, 30 seconds and includes comments from Zwigoff, producers Sarah Aubrey and John Cameron, and actors Billy Bob Thornton, Tony Cox, Lauren Graham, Brett Kelly and Bernie Mac. We learn about the film’s origins and path to the screen, problems getting a studio to touch the material, finding a director and cast, and some memories of John Ritter.

The program mostly feels promotional, as the show only gives us a rudimentary look at some basics. A few of the behind the scenes bits seem interesting - such as Thornton working with Kelly - but overall, it’s a pretty lackluster show.

A collection of Outtakes appears next. This runs four minutes, one second as it presents the standard assortments of goofs and wackiness.

Finally, we get a Badder Santa Gag Reel. It lasts a mere one minute, 29 second and shows the usual goofs and giggles.

The disc opens with ads for National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End. No trailer for Bad Santa appears here.

Destined to become a Christmas classic for folks who hate Christmas, Bad Santa doesn’t consistently fire on all cylinders. Nonetheless, the dark and profane comedy boasts some good performances and lots of winningly crude humor to work well overall. The Blu-ray presents erratic visuals with acceptable audio and a decent complement of supplements. This never becomes a great disc but the movie entertains.

To rate this film visit the original review of BAD SANTA: UNRATED

Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main