THN Advent Calendar Day 5: Bad Santa

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Welcome to The Hollywood News Advent Calendar! Join us for the next 24 days as we run down the top Christmas movies and guide you to the perfect festive viewing. Featuring some of your favourite Christmas movies and some you’d probably forgotten (maybe even on purpose), but hey, it is Christmas after all… to see the calendar so far, click here.

Billy Bob Thornton’s unexpected meteoric rise to Hollywood superstardom first began with a supporting role in Carl Franklin’s highly-effective 1992 independent thriller ONE FALSE MOVE (co-written by Thornton himself) in which he played the psychotic villain opposite a brilliant Bill Paxton. It wasn’t until his incredible turn as mentally-challenged murderer Karl Childers in SLING BLADE five years later – a role originated from the short film SOME FOLKS CALL IT A SLING BLADE which Thornton wrote and directed – that the actor began to turn heads. The role won Thornton a best screenplay Oscar at the 1997 Academy Awards as well as a best actor nomination. Since then, he has had notable roles in ARMAGEDDON, Sam Raimi’s A SIMPLE PLAN and Marc Forster’s Oscar-winning drama MONSTER’S BALL.

This brings us to the next of THN Christmas favourites – a film that many would not have expected to become as cherished and loved as much as it is. Directed by GHOST WORLD’s Terry Zwigoff, BAD SANTA was released in 2003 to a mixed reaction: the film sets out to shock and disgust and does just that. But it’s brilliantly hilarious too, and much, much more.

Billy Bob Thornton stars as Willie T. Stokes, who every year, along with his dwarf partner (in-crime) Marcus (Tony Cox), makes a living as a department store Santa and Elf. But aside from any festive joy, the duo have devious intentions. Never hitting the same store twice, the pair work over the festive period effectively ‘casing the joint’. When the store closes for the holidays, Marcus steals as much as he can carry (for his demanding wife), while safecracker Willie does what he does best. Unfortunately, Willie is now a washed up alcoholic so unhappy with his life he just wants to drink himself to death. His miserable existence now threatens the two criminals’ plans when his erratic foul-mouthed behaviour – in front of children and shocked parents – make them the target for the ever-watchful security manager Gin Slagel (the late Bernie Mac).

Redemption comes in the form Brett Kelly’s heartbreaking and hilarious turn as ‘The Kid’ (his actual name is as funny and tragic as you can imagine), a bullied teen whose belief in Santa gives Willie the perfect excuse to stay with the boy (rent free of course) and his dementia-suffering grandmother (Cloris Leachman) during the build-up to the all important robbery. Lauren Graham’s attractive bar waitress (with a Santa fetish) also gives Willie hope that maybe all is not lost with his looks and love life. These changes begin to make Willie think (not too much mind!) of the downward spiral his life has taken and the terrible way he treats people even when sober.

The film has a huge number of terrific scenes that all border between the hilarious and heart warming; even with all the gross-out gags and strong language it has as much heart as it does humour. The whole cast are fantastic, along with the great John Ritter (a close friend of Thornton and co-star of SLING BLADE) as the perfectly awkward store manager Bob Chipeska, in his last big-screen feature before his untimely death in 2003.

BAD SANTA is film that has gained a huge cult following over the years and becomes a firm festive favourite amongst the masses. So much so in fact, Thornton has confirmed the loathsome character of Willie T. Stokes will return in a sequel set to shoot next year!. Lets hope so!

Craig is leading the charge as our north east correspondent, proving that it’s so ‘grim up north’ that losing yourself in a world of film is a foregone prerequisite. He has been studying the best (and often worst) of both classic and modern cinema at the University of Life for as long as he can remember. Craig’s favorite films include THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION, JFK, GOODFELLAS, SCARFACE, and most of John Carpenter’s early work, particularly THE THING and HALLOWEEN.

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