Sick and twisted (and goddam proud of it) Christmas comedy by Terry Zwigoff, whose Ghost World instantaneously takes on the appearance of a fluke. It was the characters, even more clearly now than before, who "made" Ghost World — them, and their literary or quasi-literary creator, the graphic novelist Daniel Clowes. And although the director maintains his allegiance to misfits and marginals, it's the characters who unmake Bad Santa. One of them is more than enough: a guzzling, cussing, lusting department-store Santa (Billy Bob Thornton) who puts up with the parade of grasping brats only so that he can crack the office safe on Christmas Eve, with the help of his dwarfish elf (Tony Cox), the brains of the operation. The wonder of it is that, whether wetting himself in the Santa chair or stumbling over the papier-mâché reindeer in an alcoholic fog, he can hold on to his job long enough to pull off the bigger job. A dose of half-apologetic pathos seeps into it in the form of a self-described "dipshit loser," a bullied, runny-nosed fat boy (Brett Kelly) by the name of Thurman Merman, whose devotion to Saint Nick, either the Platonic ideal or this grotesquely flawed facsimile, brands him a borderline imbecile. The tenuous bond between the two ("It made me feel good about myself," glows Santa after beating the boy's teenage tormentor to a pulp) raises the emotional temperature only a degree or two: not enough to alter the one-joke monotony. Bernie Mac, Lauren Graham, John Ritter, Cloris Leachman. (2003) — Duncan Shepherd
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