Bad Santa

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Bad Santa ★★½ 2003 (R)

This is not your grandparents' Christmas movie. Or your kids' for that matter. Thornton is Willie Stokes, an alcoholic, vulgarian, self-loathing departmant store Santa who uses the gig to rob the store safe on Christmas Eve. His partner is sidekick/elf Marcus, the brains of the duo, who berates Willie for letting his liquor-soaked ways interfere with the job. When they set up shop in Phoenix, things get complicated when a doughy outcast kid leeches onto Willie. Sentimentality is crushed beneath the boot of bitter misanthropy as the movie swerves from tasteless to merely outrageous and back. Luckily, the commitment of the cast to their unsavory roles makes most of the comedy works. Zwigoff and the script let in a little light at the end, but not so much that it betrays what came before. Ritter is excellent in his final role, as the meek store manager. 91m/C VHS, DVD . US Billy Bob Thornton, Tony Cox, Lauren Graham, Brett Kelly, John Ritter, Bernie Mac, Lauren Tom, Cloris Leachman; D: Terry Zwigoff; W: Glenn Ficarra, John Requa; C: Jamie Anderson; M: David Kitay