Is Santa always happy? (Bad Santa movie review)

An old joke says that Santa Claus is always happy because he knows where all the nasty girls live. Santa that we know from cartoons and family productions wouldn’t agree, but his brother, a black sheep in the family, from Terry Zwigoff movie, couldn’t deny. “Bad Santa” is a comedy that seemingly deconstructs the spirit of Christmas, but at the end – it reveals its magical potential. The director manages to do both – make fun of traditional Christmas movie and create another wonderful tale.

Have you ever wondered who are these people under the costumes of Santa Clauses in shopping centers and on the streets? Are they just students or bad, tough guys who have just left prisons? Can you imagine a level of frustration you could experience working everyday as a friend of kids and worm grandpa? Willie, the protagonist of Zwigoff’s movie, knows exactly how it feels. He is cynical drunkard, who needs money form pretending Santa as anyone else. What’s interesting, he doesn’t work as this cheesy clown to survive – he is a thief who robs people when they are getting crazy and compulsive about Christmas shopping. Willie hates his job, but he loves profits and magic that he can get from his loots. He is not the only character in the movie that explodes the traditional narrative about wonderful Christmas time.

The director composes his story of portraits of different degenerates and weirdoes that work in the Christmas business without feeling its aura. For example – you will meet a nymphomaniac that would go to bed with anyone that wears Santa’s costume. The gallery of characters seems to be full of figures that are more repulsive than attractive. Paradoxically, they get the audience’s sympathy? The director constructs his characters on the dialectics of otherness – it’s fascinating and rejecting at the same time. What’s more, “Bad Santa”, contrary to the title, is a very universal (and extremely funny) movie about frustration and desperation. Willy could be a guy in a chicken costume that promotes one of restaurants or an ordinary corporation-worker. The coolness of this movie is based on  combining opposites and brilliant deconstruction of one cynical heart.