Why Rude, Crude ‘Bad Santa’ Nails That Christmas Spirit

Confession: I’m a devout Christian and my favorite Christmas movie is “Bad Santa.”

This profane, wickedly and wincingly funny dark comedy captures the essence of the Christmas message better than any I know.

Before you watch the 2003 cult classic know there are roughly two f-bombs for every non-swear word in the script. Sex, drunkenness and violence, though curiously no nudity, make this film adults-only entertainment.

Let’s put it this way. If they attempted to make a made-for-television version of “Bad Santa” it would be eight minutes long. Watch it when the kids are in bed.

Bad Santa Official Trailer #1 - (2003) HD

So how bad is the titular bad Santa? Willie is a lecherous, utterly dissipated, perpetually wasted and nasty safe-cracking thief. You can almost smell the booze, puke and self-loathing through the screen thanks to Billy Bob Thornton’s visceral portrayal.

Willie’s partner in crime, Marcus (Tony Cox), is the brains of the operation—their annual department store heist. The all-star cast also features Lauren Graham of “Gilmore Girls” fame playing the lovable bartender with a thing for guys in Santa suits.

FAST FACT: “Bad Santa” earned $60 million at the U.S. box office in 2003. The film’s belated sequel, 2016’s “Bad Santa 2,” couldn’t bank on the original’s cult status, generating just $17 million.

John Ritter co-stars as the priggish manager opposite Bernie Mac, the shady chain-smoking store security supervisor. Octavia Spencer and Alex Borstein both have cameos. The role of the pudgy, awkward boy Thurman Merman is played brilliantly by 10-year-old Canadian actor Brett Kelly.

Not surprisingly, the film’s executive producers were the Coen brothers, masters of making ingenious dark comedies about good and evil.

Bad Santa (1/12) Movie CLIP - My F*** Stick (2003) HD

Without giving too much away, the plot rolls like this: while pulling off their yearly department store Christmas robbery, Willie is befriended by a kid. The kid loves Willie despite Willie’s being utterly and completely unlovable.

Over the course of the film, that unmerited love transforms Willie into a slightly better person, not a saint, but a man capable of returning that love.

Love precedes transformation.

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In the Biblical Christmas story, God loves his creation so much that he breaks through time and space to walk among us, to teach us, to love us even unto death and to bring us hope of a new life. Love transforms us. I see its power in my own life. Even when I despised Him, Jesus loved me and that love broke through my anger and hopelessness.

My other Christmas favorites, “A Christmas Story,” “A Christmas Carol,” “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “Die Hard” (yes, it’s a Christmas film), are beautiful, endearing or just fun. None portrays the Christmas message of transformational love and redemption like “Bad Santa.”

Krista Kafer is a Colorado-based freelance writer, Denver Post columnist and radio and television commentator. Please follow her on Twitter @KristaKafer

One Comment

  1. This dawned on me as well as a lapsed Catholic that this film is certainly more Christian than most Christmas movies, although I’d say that ‘A Christmas Carol’ (I like the version with Patrick Stewart) is the quintessential Christian Christmas film. After all, Scrooge isn’t the villain (as adults seemed to make out when I eas younger), but the a lost soul in need of salvation. The ghost of Christmas past says it’s about his reclamation.

    Anyway, Bad Santa although very distasteful, is about sin and the desire for redemption given the opportunity. Willie isn’t evil, but he’s clearly suffering. He does bad many things, but over the course of the story begins to transform into someone better, and I like how they kept this subtle transformation grounded in reality.

    I also quite like how Willie’s says to Marcus at the end, ‘You people are sick…. do you really need all that stuff?’, which is surely a stab at not only how avaricious his partner in crime is, but also how Christmas has become far too much about material goods and commercialism rather than the message or Christianity. Purported Christmas movies such as Jingle All the Way (a terrible movie in its own right) promotes almost everything that is now wrong with people’s attitude at Christmastime.

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