The VH 12 Films of Christmas – Day 6: Bad Santa

The overcast sky has a faint glow from rows of houses so encased in lights that the doors barely open and the TV is effectively an ornament in the corner. Children are daring to be happy because they are still yet to realise the world is cruel and awful. It’s Christmas and you’re resisting the cheer with remarkable skill. Still, it is the holiday season and you’ll allow yourself to indulge in one festive movie to accompany the only truly great Christmas song, ‘Fairytale of New York’.

Bad Santa is there for anyone who only bothers with Christmas because of the food, yet still begrudges cooking it. It is for the cynical, those who wish the Christmas cracker jokes had a little more death in them because the cheer has become grating, those who have had enough of children commanding the TV schedule.

It follows Willie (Billy Bob Thornton), a drunken thief whose MO is posing as a mall santa and robbing the place blind on Christmas Eve with his business partner, Marcus (Tony Cox). It’s not the most reliable income to declare and, if you’re into stealing your way through life, paying rent is less than tempting, so he finds shelter in the home of Thurman Merman (Brett Kelly), an easy target for bullying with a sandwich-obsessed grandmother who’s less-than-spry. There’s no faulting Billy Bob’s portrayal given he turned up drunk to filming. Though much of the audience are probably drunk by the time they turn on the TV.

Admittedly, the movie adheres to the ‘wayward man changes his ways thanks to an innocent soul’ trope, but writers Glenn Ficarra and John Requa spiced it up a little along the way. Willie’s outbursts to customers in the mall are cathartic to simply witness, acting as a second-hand outlet for stress relief for anyone who has ever had a customer-facing job. There are 159 variations of the f-bomb peppered throughout the film for those who have had to hold their tongue for a little too long. There’s even a bonus murder for… okay, that was a bit of a surprising turn. It’s as unashamedly crass as others are saccharine.

Bad Santa has the common decency to keep its heartwarming moments short-lived right up until the end. There are other films that toe the happy family line and, as such, most of them fade into the background. You need that one that stands out, one that can be broadcast throughout the year because it manages to remain so – despite its characters and timeline. It is the best Christmas film because it accepts the holiday season at arm’s length. It’s not one for the kids but they’ll get to the age where they appreciate it.