F.I.L.M. of the Week (November 30, 2012)

30 11 2012

It’s once again the most wonderful time of the year … which means time to dust off the Christmas favorites again.  Though the most family-friendly choices might be “Elf” or “It’s a Wonderful Life,” and the most heartfelt movies might be “Love Actually” or the extremely underrated “The Family Stone,” sometimes you want something a little different.

If you need a raunchy comedy and a Christmas movie all wrapped up in one, you have basically only one choice: Terry Zwigoff’s “Bad Santa.”  Thankfully, it’s a really good choice and I’m featuring it as my “F.I.L.M. of the Week” to kick off the Christmas season. The movie has got laughs to spare thanks to an incredibly witty script and some kick-ass performances … and it’s even unexpectedly sweet.

Billy Bob Thornton plays a familiar sardonic role in the film, here embodying boozing con man Willie Stokes.  He makes his living as a mall Santa, but not from any salary or profits – he and his companion Marcus, a dwarf who acts as his elf, rob the mall where they work that year and then scoot out of town.

However, their year in Phoenix turns out a little differently.  Willie is a little more sex-crazed and erratic than usual, catching the attention of the pushover store manager Bob Chipeska (played with brilliant naïveté by the late John Ritter).  That also puts Chipeska’s top security guard, the stoic Gin Slagel (played by another late comic, Bernie Mac), hot on their trail.

But the more significant development is that Willie starts to develop a heart for “The Kid,” a dim-witted overweight youngster with an undying loyalty to Santa.  His kindness in the face of insult and injury at first annoy Willie yet eventually force him to see some of the error in his ways.  He even begins to give generously out of his greatest strength: his unfeeling toughness.

And isn’t that what Christmas is about?  Giving?  I’ll tell you one thing “Bad Santa” can give you this holiday season: an aching body from laughing so hard.