what i watched last week
happy birthday, félix!

by request: bad santa (terry zwigoff, 2003)

(This was requested by Neal.)

I thought I was finally going to find a modern comedy I enjoyed. The pedigree was impressive: Terry Zwigoff directed Crumb and Ghost World, two of my favorite movies (especially the latter). And I’m not a fan of xmas, so the grumpy attitude towards the holidays was enticing. Knowing that the word “fuck” appeared more time in Bad Santa than in any other xmas movie in history certainly got my attention in a good way. And the early scenes of Billy Bob Thornton in the title role were pretty good.

Even then, though, I wondered where they would take things. It didn’t seem like 90 minutes of Billy Bob Santa getting drunk and pissing himself would be enough. But there was enough bad attitude that I thought it would be OK.

And then it went soft. Billy Bob Santa took a hankering to a bullied, pathetic boy, and the movie went downhill from there. I’ve read a few reviews that argue the ending of Bad Santa is not the usual feel-good cliché, and it’s true that Santa never quits saying “fuck”. But (spoiler alert) at the end of the movie, I swear to god, Billy Bob Santa gets shot eight times by the cops because he’s trying to get a xmas present to the pathetic boy. And this is played without irony.

Well, I can say “fuck” as good as anybody, and that’s exactly what I said to myself as the movie ended. Zwigoff (and probably the Coen Brothers, who were also involved, and with whom I have a much more problematic relationship) fooled me. And I’m so embarrassed for being suckered that the movie pisses me off, turning a decent 90 minutes of pleasure into the blood-pressure-raising rant you are reading now. Minus one for the ending, leading to 5/10. Come back when you have the guts to take Bad Santa all the way through the end of the movie. For a companion, watch Crumb or Ghost World.

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