Screened as part of NZIFF 2004

Bad Santa 2003

Directed by Terry Zwigoff

USA In English
93 minutes 35mm



Glenn Ficarra
John Requa


Jamie Anderson


Robert Hoffman


David Kitay


Billy Bob Thornton
Tony Cox
Lauren Graham
Bernie Mac
John Ritter
Cloris Leachman


Cannes (Out of Competition) 2004


From the perverse mind that brought you the award-winning Crumb and Ghost World comes the most politically incorrect yuletide picture of all time. If you’ve ever felt like being Ebenezer Scrooge around December, what with the family squabbles, the traffic, the malls, then Bad Santa is our gift to you. Most cinematic depictions of Santa are of the cherubic, peace-to-all kind of guy. Not the drunken, unshaved, abusive, profane, pathological and boiling-with-self-hatred loner that Billy Bob Thornton portrays in this hysterically demented comedy. Get ready for a pitch-black comedy that’s so funny and so very, very wrong. Thornton is Willie T. Stokes, an alcoholic crook, who makes a yearly crust as department store Santa, while his three-foot-tall partner in crime plays the elf. The obnoxious Willie screams at the kids and has sex with customers in the oversize department before he and his vertically-challenged helper rip the stores off. When a doughy and slightly backward boy attaches himself to the booze-addled misanthrope for parental support, Willie doesn’t want a bar of it, until he sees where the kid lives. With a security chief on his tail, he pretends to care for the kid and quickly moves in to his new, up-market abode. The film swerves from being wet-yourself-funny to being so outrageous that it invokes the rebellious spirit of John Waters’ early films. Thornton devours the screen with a performance that is borderline psychotic, and he’s supported by good work from the late, great John Ritter, who plays Thornton’s nebbish boss with such achingly accurate nuance that he steals every scene he’s in. — Ant Timpson