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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

He doesn't care if you're naughty or nice.

Hollywood favorites Billy Bob Thornton, Bernie Mac and John Ritter kick it up a notch in this unrated version of the outrageous comedy hit Bad Santa. You'd better watch out - Santa Claus Willie T. Stokes (Thornton) is coming to town and he doesn't care if you've been naughty or nice. Willie's favorite holiday tradition is to fill his sacks with loot lifted from shopping malls across the country. But this year his plot gets derailed by a wisecracking store detective (Mac), a sexy bartender (Lauren Graham) and a kid who's convinced Willie is the real Santa Claus! You're sure to believe in Bad Santa - The Unrated Version ... once you experience this longer, funnier and more explicit motion picture!

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

Rated NR

Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1

Runtime: 88 min.
Price: $19.99
Release Date: 10/10/2006

• Audio Commentary With Director Terry Zwigoff and Editor Robert Hoffman
• Deleted and Alternate Scenes
• Behind the Scenes Featurette
• Outtakes
• Sneak Peeks


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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Bad Santa: Director's Cut (2003)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 5, 2006)

2003’s Bad Santa presents a much darker and more cynically comedic look at Christmas than we usually expect. 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. They 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. They 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 comment about his “fuckstick”, and Bob soon brings his concerns to mall security chief Gin (Bernie Mac). It doesn’t help when Bob catches Willie as he bangs a heavy woman in a dressing room.

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 meets Sue (Lauren Graham), a bartender with a Santa fetish, and they do the nasty in a car.

After she splits, a weirdo assaults Willie in the parking lot and Thurman helps rescue him. Willie gives the boy a ride home and learns that the kid’s dad is allegedly gone for the long-term on a mountain-climbing adventure. 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.

After the dressing room incident, 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 can 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 actually 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 indeed, it occasionally falls back on those bits.

However, the movie walks a fine line between darkness and 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. It 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.

Note that this DVD provides a “Director’s Cut” of Bad Santa. This 88-minute flick actually runs about three minutes shorter than the theatrical version of the film. Since I never saw that edition, I can’t delineate the changes. (I only watched the 98-minute Badder Santa unrated version.) However, I think the DC seems darker than I recall from 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.

The DVD Grades: Picture C+/ Audio B-/ Bonus B-

Bad Santa appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. While the original 2004 release looked quite good, I felt the 2006 “Director’s Cut” demonstrated more than a few problems.

Sharpness presented one area of concern. Most of the film offered reasonably good delineation and clarity, but more than a few exceptions occurred. I thought quite a few shots seemed a bit soft and ill-defined, partially thanks to some edge haloes. Jagged edges and moiré effects caused no problems, but source flaws were a bigger distraction. Occasional bouts of specks made the “Director’s Cut” transfer messier than its predecessor.

Despite the dark humor of the flick, Bad Santa featured a palette that reflected its Christmas theme, and the DVD replicated those tones well for the most part. The hues always remained vibrant and lively, but I noticed some smearing at times and the colors weren’t always as tight as I’d like. Black levels looked deep and rich, but shadows tended to be a little thick. Low-light shots demonstrated more opacity than I’d expect. The transfer had some very nice spots and was always watchable, but it suffered from more concerns than we normally get from a modern movie.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Bad Santa provided a serviceable but unspectacular presentation. It seemed to strongly echo what I heard from the prior DVD. 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-”.

This “Director’s Cut” of Bad Santa mostly duplicates the extras from the prior release, but we do get a new audio commentary. This offers remarks from director Terry Zwigoff and editor Robert Hoffman. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific chat. They 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.

Four deleted and alternate scenes lasted between 99 seconds and 218 seconds for a total of eight minutes, 48 seconds of footage. “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.

“Florida Robbery” is the longest as it shows a caper Willie executes. 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.

All except for “Robbery” already appeared in the Badder Santa’s collection of deleted/alternate scenes. “Robbery” looks awfully familiar, so I believe it was integrated into the longer unrated cut. Conversely, “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, 29 seconds and includes the usual assortment of movie clips, shots from the set, and sound bites. We hear 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. Note that this set drops the “Badder Santa Gag Reel” found on the unrated DVD from 2004. That’s the only omission in terms of extras.

No trailer for Bad Santa itself shows up on the DVD, but in the at the start of the disc, we discover a few ads. We see clips for Keeping Up with the Steins, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, Lost Season Two, and Kinky Boots. These also appear in the Sneak Peeks area along with promos for Grey’s Anatomy Season Two, Scrubs Season Four, and Desperate Housewives Season Two.

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 DVD presents fairly average picture and audio along with a few supplements highlighted by an interesting audio commentary.

I like Bad Santa and recommend it to viewers, but the question becomes which version to get. Although the prior Badder Santa offered superior picture quality, this one gives us the movie as intended by the director, and that’s important to me. It also throws in a pretty good commentary, so I think it’s the one to have. It may not be worth the “double dip” for folks who already own an earlier Santa DVD, though.

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