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Heroes of the Zeroes: Bad Santa

by on January 26, 2010
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Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films of 2000-2009.

“Bad Santa”
Rated R

Willie T. Soke is at the bottom of the barrel, and he’d gladly lick whatever sticky coagulation of stale alcohol he’d find there. A walking 24-hour liquor store, Willie’s mission is to berate, get laid, steal loot as a mall Santa, escape, pass out and repeat.

May kids never wallow in a hellish existence a la Billy Bob Thornton’s character. But may they also never live in such a hazardously sanitary bubble as The Kid (Brett Kelly) — an overweight latchkey kid who’s a poster child for playground torture with his snot-caked nose and vacant stare. It’s for The Kid’s edification that Willie stirs himself to prep The Kid for the crappiest things in life.

Not so much the daddy of cynical Christmas films, 2003’s “Bad Santa” is the genre’s perpetually drunken uncle. Much as you’d like to throw him out, his behavior is too legendarily hilarious and worth annually welcoming back.

Terry Zwigoff’s follow-up to “Ghost World” — with which this has more in common than it seems — isn’t so much against Christmas as against dismissal of life’s lumps.

Thornton gives a fearlessly foul performance — with self-loathing evident in every scowl, limp and eruption of anger. The actor frequently imitated Willie’s tough talk throughout The Zeroes to diminishing PG-13 returns, but this proved Thornton’s finest comic hour.

In a conventional and condescending version, the ending would be happier. Instead, this conclusion took ideas of “happiness,” put them on puree and poured them out — sort of like how life usually is.