Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment .
R4 . COLOR . 95 mins .
MA15+ . PAL
Those ghastly holiday-themed films that seem to fill videostores and TV broadcasts leading up to Christmas now have some serious competition. Jonathon Taylor Thomas, after his groundbreaking work in I’ll Be Home for Christmas, may just have some catching up to do following the release of Bad Santa, since Disney producers have realised that cute just won’t sell anymore. Expect exorbitant amounts of sex and alcohol in the upcoming wave of Christmas-flavoured movies; as I fear Bad Santa has now set the benchmark for what’s to come.
Quentin Tarantino presents, Bad Santa!
We follow Willie Strokes (Billy Bob Thornton), a broke, alcoholic, sex-crazed nobody who each year dons the big red suit and, with the help of his small little friend Marcus (Tony Cox), robs each consecutive store on Christmas Eve. This cashes the both of them up for the rest of the year, until again, it comes time to do it again. After making an impression on the store manager, as well as the store security guard (Bernie Mac), the race is on to steal the goods and get away before being caught red-handed. Amidst the chaos, Willie meets a loner boy, referred to only as ‘the kid’, who takes him in as something of a mentor, teaching our despondent protagonist a thing or two about life and happiness along the way. To add to Willie’s new found friends comes a young girl with something of a Santa-fetish, who proves to be the best (and probably the most stable) girlfriend he’s ever come across.
Director/co-writer Tony Zwigoff turns what could have been a very clichéd and ordinary American ‘gross-out’ comedy into a finely tuned comedic romp. Instead of aiming at the teenage market, with its tell-tale MTV-styled editing and constant laughs, Zwigoff takes a more subtle and mature approach to this slanderous material! Bad Santa caters for the upper-echelon of those who enjoy a dirty-comedy, in moving at a far more subdued pace, balancing the drama and the laughs effectively. One of my favourite scenes in the film involves Willie acting as a bartender, until the bar-owner appears and throws him out, all the while Willie drinks as much as he possibly can. Surprisingly, this scene features very little dialogue, but remains astoundingly funny. A testament to Zwigoff’s more subtle approach to his film; something certainly to be praised.
The cast headed by Billy Bob Thornton are brilliant. Far gone are the days of Sling Blade, as this seems to be the role Thornton was born to play. Bernie Mac adds his little touch, which proves very funny in his seriousness, as does Brett Kelly playing the lonely little kid.
Bad Santa is certainly very funny, which very few will doubt. It’s only drawback is probably centred around the fact that 90% of the humour is at the expense of our lovely Santa, which proves hilarious to begin with, but does eventually become a little overplayed. Tony Cox is naturally funny, but is character seems to have the proverbial pineapple stoved so far up is arse that he can’t fathom a civil word for anyone. I may sound like a raving, moralistic right wing Republican, but a character solely created to constantly take the piss out of another is funny for a while, but frankly becomes tiring. I can’t help but think of what would have turned from the Coen-brothers having a little more creative control, as they seem to develop balanced characters perfectly. This is essentially Bad Santa’s only fault, and considering the majority of American comedies around at the moment, means it remains a pretty fine film indeed.
This is a foul-mouthed comedy; this time, genuinely for adults. As a clear notch above the American Pie-esque humour we’ve all become too familiar with, Bad Santa is a film which contains the artistic merit and indisputable laughter. Some excellent scriptwriting, great acting and a solid, Coen-brothers inspired direction combine to culminate in an very enjoyable experience indeed.
Sony Pictures’ efforts on the Bad Santa DVD are quite decent, but unfortunately not perfect.
Santa on the edge of a crisis!
The main issue with this transfer is the sharpness of the picture, which often seems unclear, lacking the definition you’d expect. Colours aren’t as bold, black levels aren’t as solid and lines aren’t as clear as they should be. This may present itself as an issue if you’re playing this on a large monitor/projector screen. Aliasing and shimmering are kept to the very minimum; artefacts and print damage are non-existent, to be expected from a recent film.
Overall, a good transfer marred a little with a lack of strong definition.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack provided is perfectly adequate for this dialogue-driven film. All speech, even that that is intentionally slurred, is audible and clear; primarily anchored in the centre speaker. Music, sound effects and some directional speech fill the left and right channels at appropriate moments, providing a dynamic front soundstage.
Rear speakers and the sub are used sparingly, only usually there to offer a little more depth to the music or for ambient effects. Considering the nature of the film, the limited use of the surround channels is acceptable.
We have a sparing, but entertaining bunch of extras on offer.
Mad Mike from Pimp My Ride
A set of outtakes from the cast, taken throughout the film prove to be very funny, and show that everyone enjoyed the experience of making the film. Which is always a positive. Also, some deleted scenes make their way onto the disc. However, I found it odd that there were a few scenes that were featured in the film, but also in this segment. This could be because of the two (differently edited) versions found in the US, but I’m not sure. Could be a scam!
A making-off styled featurette rounds the disc off, featuring interviews from the cast and crew including director Terry Zwigoff and lead actor Billy Bob Thornton. At just under 10 minutes, it’s brief, but worth a casual watch as it proves entertaining and lightly informative.
All special features contain English subtitles, but are not 16:9 enhanced. Two trailers for White Chicks and Suspect Zero also feature, and are presented in 16:9 enhanced widescreen.
A film certain not to please everyone, but will equally entertain those it’s aimed at. Billy Bob Thornton provides the best performance of the red-suited Santa that has ever graced the silver screen. An excellent comedy.
Lucky Jason Lee, of Mallrats, isn’t watching...
Sony’s work on this DVD is adequate, if a little disappointing. A few more extras would have been nice, perhaps some more behind-the-scenes footage or a cast/crew commentary. The Dolby Digital soundtrack provided is fine, however minor disappointments in the softness of the video.