Bad Santa is my kind of christmas movie—profane, subversive, and swarming with scuzzballs. Billy Bob Thornton plays boozehound safecracker Willie T. Stokes, who teams each Christmas with three-foot-tall Marcus (Tony Cox), the brains of the outfit, as Santa and Elf. Thus disguised, they proceed after-hours to loot the department store where they are currently employed and then live off the swag for a year. (Marcus is small enough to maneuver through the stores’s air ducts and dismantle any security system.) The scam is remarkably plausible—I won’t be surprised if we are soon reading about copycat crimes.
Terry Zwigoff, who directed from a script by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, is best known for Ghost World and the documentary Crumb, and so it’s not surprising that Bad Santa has some of the ripe grunginess of a good underground comic. My Treacle Alert did start beeping when Willie ended up hiding out with a tubby, friendless 8-year-old (Brett Kelly) in the Phoenix mansion he shares with his zonked-out grandmother (Cloris Leachman). But not to worry—tastelessness reigns. Thornton has found the perfect vehicle for his peculiar gifts—his stubbly lewdness shines—and the rest of the cast, which includes Bernie Mac as a mall detective, the late John Ritter as a store manager, and Lauren Tom as Marcus’s squawk-box wife, is equally inspired. There’s even a groupie, wonderfully played by Lauren Graham, who has a thing for guys dressed up as Santa. And a very merry fetish to you, too. (1 hr. 35
Opens November 26
& tickets (movietickets.com)