Classic Film Scene: Bad Santa

Bad Santa

zGreat films appear every year and with them are potentially classic scenes that may become more famous than the film itself. The shower scene in Psycho, the chariot race in Ben Hur, the chest bursting moment in Alien, and the opera music sounding across the prison yard in The Shawshank Redemption are just some of the examples of the classic celluloid moments that we may be familiar with even if we’ve never seen the film. I’ll be sharing my favourite film scenes, some you will know others may be unfamiliar, but hopefully they’ll be moments you enjoy as much as I do.

Bad Santa (2003) – The Car Journey

Bad SantaTerry Zwigoff’s 2003 black comedy was a Christmas film with a difference. While other yuletide films are often magical and aimed at children, Bad Santa is very much for adults and has as its main character a conman who spends the bulk of his time drinking and philandering. Although the inevitable festive cheer does take over in the end this is still a refreshingly original take on Christmas and is a must for me every year.

The film follows the progress of Willie Stokes (Billy Bob Thornton), a bitter, foul-mouthed, alcoholic who meets each year with Marcus (Tony Cox) where they work in a mall with Willie as Santa and Marcus as an elf. They endure their respective roles until the mall closes for Christmas before disabling the security systems and emptying the safe. The film begins with Willie and Marcus going their separate ways after their latest heist and while Marcus reunites with his wife, Willie has a year of excess at the expense of others. Willie and Marcus reunite a year later for another job but come under the suspicion of the mall manager, Bob Chipeska (John Ritter), who enlists security chief, Gin (Bernie Mac), to keep an eye on the duo. While working at the mall, Willie’s life is changed by his meeting with bartender, Sue (Lauren Graham), but most of all by one of the children that comes to the grotto and he nicknames the Kid (Brett Kelly). After Willie is nearly assaulted while out drinking, he is saved by the Kid who believes Willie is Santa and invites him to stay at his house. The Kid turns out to be an unpopular loner and lives with a senile grandmother, while his mother is dead and his father is in prison. Willie chooses to remain with the Kid until he and Marcus have completed their latest heist but by the end of the film he has mellowed, well, partially anyway.

Bad Santa is a hilarious black comedy and choosing the outstanding scene is difficult. Willie arriving drunk at the grotto and frightening the assembled parents and children, destroying the Kid’s Advent Calendar and atoning for his behaviour, playing chequers with the Kid and losing both the game and his patience, or Chipeska’s discomfort at revealing to Gin he overheard Willie having sex with a ‘large’ lady in the women’s dressing room at one of the clothes shops. All are great moments but featured here is Willie’s drive to the Kid’s home where he endures a barrage of questions from the fascinated boy. This isn’t the only time he has to face such interrogations but this one is the funniest, especially by the end when Willie finally loses it. I once heard Billy Bob Thornton interviewed about the film on radio and he had nothing but praise for his young co-star, Brett Kelly, and recalled how difficult it was acting so cruelly to the boy, who in the film never lets his expression or interest in Santa wane. The car journey is a great scene to use as a comparison with how Willie is by the end of the film, all thanks to the good influence of the Kid.

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Dave Brown

I was born in Barnsley, South Yorkshire, England and have always been a bookworm and enjoyed creative writing at school. In 1999 I created the Elencheran Chronicles and have been writing ever since. My first novel, Fezariu's Epiphany, was published in May 2011. When not writing I'm a lover of films, games, books and blogging. I live in Barnsley, with my wife, Donna, and our six cats - Kain, Razz, Buggles, Charlie, Bilbo and Frodo.
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