Billy Bob Thornton is a good actor, good writer, singer and kinda like my Starship Enterprise having boldly gone where I'd love to go. This is a feel good, traditional movie, perfect for kids over the holidays. Believe that and you'll believe anything. Thornton plays Willie, a degenerate, drunk, fornicating thief who, with his accomplice Marcus (Cox), plays Santa and his elf respectively during the day and then fleece the store they appear in at night. Only trouble is that come July, Willie is broke and is already looking for the next yuletide payoff. Having acquired their next target, they set up shop, but the store manger (Ritter) and his security manager (Mac) are definitely keeping an eye on them, not to mention Sue (Graham) a bartender who just happens to have a Santa fetish. However, a kid who visits Santa pretty much shakes Willie's world up considerably, first helping him out of a fight in a car park, then giving him a roof over his head and even carving him a Christmas present (a wooden pickle no less), at which point Willie begins to soften up and get his act together (well, becomes more sober), but will the Christmas spirit and this kid really change him into a decent person?
You are really Santa, right?
No, I'm an accountant. I wear this f*****g thing as a fashion statement, alright?
I hate Christmas movies. Heck, I hate Christmas. So much so, Scrooge would be shocked, but this film is hysterically funny because it really is the opposite of every happy, moralising, sickly Christmas movie ever made. Don't believe me? Ok, how many seasonal movies have a guy in a Santa costume having sex in a car while the woman is saying repeatedly "F*** me Santa"? Or refer to the same physical act in a very uncomfortable place (the back of a Volkswagen?)? Well you can add one to that list, or rather you can create that list now. This movie is like a breath of fresh air after so many condescending, feel-good, Hallmark feeling movies, I can't say it enough. Thornton is a riot portraying this drunk, debauched degenerate and is completely wonderful, from his sarcastic, foul worded replies to children to his possible redemption at the hands of the snot-nosed, ugly and unlikable child called Thurman Murman. Graham, who stars apparently in something called The Gilmore Girls, is the closest we have to a likeable character and not just because she's like a bunny rabbit on heat or looks hot in leather jeans, but because she also sees how Willie changes and slowly falls for him as a person and not just because he's Santa. The late John Ritter is fine here and although this was his last role, he's cast well and the script plays to his strengths. Mac is arguably the weakest link, due to not being able to shine in quite the same way as he did in say, Oceans 11 which was a similarly small role, but he acquits himself with the hand dealt to him. But at the end of the day, this is Thornton's movie and I can't think of anyone who could conceivably work better. He simply is sarcastic enough to make you hate him from a child's perspective, but as we're adults, we simply love how he treats them - even telling one to “disappear” as he's on his lunch hour. Class.
Script wise, this is certainly not for kids, if you hadn't of guessed from the above which makes it certainly better for anyone like myself to stomach. Of course the Coen Brothers influences are apparent (they did revise the screenplay, with director Zwigoff) or even the Farrelly's, but unlike the latter's movies which revolve around half a dozen set-pieces, which don't always work, this is much better written and works because of it, even if it is just because of Thornton swearing simply because we see a children's character - Santa in this case - being the anti-Santa as such, which in itself shatters an image we all shared during our formative years, but this isn't the only reason to like this movie. It genuinely hits more times than it misses and that's purely down to two things, a well tuned script and a superb performance by Thornton.
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