(Originally posted on 11/30/03)
Terry Zwigoff's Bad Santa is an uproarious all-out assault on propriety. Billy Bob Thornton plays Willie, a crass, profane drunken crook who, with his midget sidekick Marcus (Tony Cox), spends each Christmas working as a department store Kris Kringle with the aim of robbing his place of employment. As Marcus aptly describes Willie, "Every single thing about you is ugly." The film, written by John Requa and Glenn Ficarra (although it's rumored that exec producers Joel and Ethan Coen, who are credited with concocting the cynical story, had a hand in penning the script), goes for the comedic jugular from the opening credit sequence, in which the title is displayed while Thornton pukes from excessive drinking in a dank, snowy alleyway. This misanthropic counterpoint to the season's traditional batch of sugary sweet holiday fables poses (at least for its first two acts) as the antithesis of yuletide cheer, but the surprisingly affirmative conclusion reveals the film to be a dark, caustically hilarious ode to the virtues of self-empowerment and Christmas-season selflessness. John Ritter and Bernie Mac make little impact as, respectively, a department store manager and security expert, but special kudos to Brett Kelly as "The Kid" (aka Thurman Merman), the overweight, snot-nosed do-gooder who becomes Willie's unlikely sidekick and conscience. Thornton and Kelly's scenes are a knock-down, drag-out laugh riot, and on more than one occasion -- such as when The Kid interrupts Willie making love to his bartender girlfriend (The Gilmore Girls' Lauren Graham) so he can give him a wooden pickle painted in blood as a Christmas present -- brought me to tears. Bad Santa is likely the most consistently inappropriate holiday film ever made, and -- more importantly -- one of the year's funniest, and best, movies.