Bad Santa

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Has Terry Zwigoff, the maestro behind such sublime creations as Crumb and Ghost World, sold out by making Bad Santa? Has he turned his back on the offbeat path he started to carve back in 1994? The habitually clever movie reviewer would say, “Yes.” The comic book freaks and the hipper-than-thous at the coffeehouse will snort a resounding, “Absolutely! Pass me a scone.” The cable news pundits will ask for his head on a platter, and a million parents will shake their heads at the continuing decline of American civilization. I say: Lighten up, tight-asses.

If you’re too intellectual to enjoy a department store Santa pissing on himself after a long day of telling kids to get the fuck off his lap, I feel sorry for you. If you cringe at drunk adults calling children “retards” and “mongoloids” and puking out their guts on the sidewalk, you’ve misplaced the cruel 14-year-old you once were, and you are in desperate need of the black-black-really-black comedy that is Bad Santa.

Don’t you want to laugh at wedgies and testicle-punching and senile old grandmas? You’re too good for that? Don’t you think it’s funny that the grizzled old prick of a Santa played with greasy perfection by Billy Bob Thornton scours the lady’s “big and tall” shop looking for women to cornhole? No? Go rent Battleship Potemkin and leave us alone, because this is dirty, rotten fun and we don’t need you around to piss on our parade. I laughed like a retarded-drunk-senile grandma through the whole 93 minutes.

Mr. Zwigoff, with some help from fellow geniuses Ethan and Joel Coen, has made a film with absolutely no redeeming artistic values except these: to shock you with the yellow-green snot of youth, to paralyze you with the hypnotic mantra of “motherfucker” and “cocksucker” in nearly every line of dialogue, and to take pubescent, criminal glee that Zwigoff’s safe-cracking con-man Santa is one of vilest creatures to ever grace a screen.

There is a whisper of a plot in this film, but it’s there strictly to string the sight-gag/potty-mouth vignettes into a cohesive wad of comedy splooge. Santa (Billy Bob) works with a black midget (Tony Cox), his white-eared waddling elf, at a mall in Phoenix so that they can rob the joint on Christmas Eve. The elf, along with his wife, will grab the merchandise. Santa will crack the safe. There’s a fat kid who makes Santa think twice about his lonely, criminal, alcoholic life. End of plot. Bring on the cornholing!

Dan DeMaggio writes about film for Metro Times. E-mail letters@metrotimes.com.

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