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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Bad Santa, though it features a Santa Claus character and Christmas theme, is not for kids and may even be too much for some adults. It includes profanity, nonstop drinking and smoking, extremely explicit sexual references and situations, and graphic violence, including a suicide attempt, hitting below the belt, murder, and shooting. Note: This is not a review of Badder Santa, an unrated version that was released on DVD and is available through Netflix.
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What's the story?
A dark comedy with raunchy humor, BAD SANTA centers on Willie (Billy Bob Thornton), a hard-drinking, foul-mouthed ex-con.. For many years running, Willie and his partner in crime, a little person named Marcus (Tony Cox), get jobs as Santa and his elf in a department store and rob the place blind on Christmas Eve. As Santa, Willie is slovenly, self-loathing, and angry at the world, he drinks and smokes on the job, insults the kids, and has sex with women in the ladies' fitting room. Everything changes in Phoenix, where he meets the perfect woman and Thurman, a lonely little boy who lives with his grandmother (Cloris Leachman). Thurman desperately needs a father figure. Willie has no patience with kids and is hardly a role model. Not only does he steal the family's car, but he also robs their safe -- assuring the kid that he'll use the money to repair his sleigh. Thurman, however, seems to adore his live-in Santa. Willie, meanwhile, develops a fondness for the kid and is soon protecting him from bullies and teaching him to defend himself.
Is it any good?
There's no question that viewers will find Bad Santa crude and irreverent. But while some might be shocked and disgusted, others will find themselves laughing all the way through this unconventional Christmas tale. Indeed, Willie emerges as the ultimate antihero. Those who aren't utterly offended might even find themselves rooting for Willie, who is portrayed as more of a washed-up, disorganized loser than a genuine menace. He starts out as a Grinch, but seems to be headed for his own version of redemption. A scene where Willie and his girlfriend help decorate the home for Christmas is surprisingly sweet.
In his final film role, the late John Ritter shines as the uptight department-store manager. Lauren Graham brings just the right mix of freewheeling sexiness and earthy compassion to her role Willie's love interest, and Bernie Mac is solid as the store's deadpan, scheming security guard, and Cox plays a great straight man to Thornton's over-the-top Willie.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about dark comedies and the raunchy humor of Bad Santa. Do you think comedies are getting raunchier? What more recent comedies can you compare this to?
Would this movie work with a more innocent brand of humor or not? Which movies are funny without the violent and sexual content?
- In theaters: November 26, 2003
- On DVD or streaming: June 22, 2004
- Cast: Bernie Mac, Billy Bob Thornton, Cloris Leachman, John Ritter, Lauren Graham, Tony Cox
- Director: Terry Zwigoff
- Studio: Miramax
- Genre: Comedy
- Run time: 93 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: pervasive language, strong sexual content and some violence.
- Last updated: September 17, 2020
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