When Bad Santa came out in 2003, nothing had ever been done like it before. There had been horror movies that had utilized the Santa Claus costume in a “bad” way but no movie had ever been made about someone dressed as Santa swearing and drinking in front of children. The movie takes the idea of Christmas spirit and stomps on it in front of you, leaving only remnants of the idea that the main character can be redeemed in any way.
Doesn’t he look just like Santa?
It’s weird to think about how the movie even came to exist. Did you know that the original screenplay for the movie was written by the writing duo Glenn Ficarra and John Requa whose first feature film script was for Cats & Dogs? So how did they end up writing about a foul mouthed, criminal Santa Claus? They wanted to write a script for Joel and Ethan Coen (the Coen Brothers) to direct but the Coen Brothers told them that they only direct their own screenplays. The Coen Brothers did however become executive producers on the film and did some uncredited rewrites to the script after it was passed on to Terry Zwigoff to direct.
Cats & Dogs could have been much darker…
After a few more rewrites by the director were made there were then casting disagreements (specifically about Tony Cox as Marcus) and disagreements about which scenes to include in the film. The Weinsteins, who released the film under the Dimension Films label, ended up having additional scenes shot under a different director when Zwigoff refused to shoot the scenes himself. Supposedly, some of the additional scenes made it into the finished film but a lot were actually refused by the Coen Brothers. Now because of all the different shots, there are 3 different cuts of the movie in existence, the theatrical release, the unrated version (even more swear words) and the director’s cut – which is actually the one I have seen most recently.
Since its release, Bad Santa has become a Christmas classic for adults who need a good laugh around the holidays and who can relate to some negativity in the season. Most Christmas films are known for being sentimental and often have a focus on children or families, which not all audiences relate to. I’m sure even families with children can appreciate the raunchiness and the outbursts as most people have moments in their lives where they wish they could just tell off a child (or maybe that’s just me…).
I’m on my @^$#%*! lunch break!
It was a bit of a surprise success, since the filmmakers were unsure how the subject matter would be received by audiences. But audiences and critics reacted positively (for the most part) and even Roger Ebert loved it and gave it 3.5 stars out of 4! At the box office it performed well for a dark comedy but was not really outstanding in any categories. It made back triple its production budget so overall it is considered successful.
Billy Bob Thorton has said that Bad Santa is one of his favourite roles to play. He told the Sydney Morning Herald, “There have been a few characters in my career that I would like to keep playing forever and this was one of them.” Thorton actually was drunk during at least some of the filming of Bad Santa based on a quote from an interview with Film4. This was also John Ritter’s final film role and the movie was dedicated to his memory.
I also miss Bernie Mac (1957-2008).
Also the sequel, Bad Santa 2 is in theatres now, only 13 years after the release of the original. Sequels often don’t live up to the first film but I look forward to eventually giving it a watch if only to see Billy Bob Thorton reprise his role of the cussing Santa Claus. Check out the red band trailer (R rated) below:
My recommendation is to watch this movie after a stressful day of Christmas shopping or after a long day of babysitting or parenting (or just being in the presence of a lot of) children. It is such as great way to have a laugh and best appreciate the cynical nature and “anti-Christmas” sentiment. Unless of course you are averse to swearing… according to the Family Media Guide this movie has over 170 uses of the F-word alone, not to mention other swear words and foul terms.
Have you seen Bad Santa? What do you think about it? Let us know in the comments!