I think the best part of the holiday season is getting up early (or staying up late) to watch some classic holiday cinema. One of my all-time favorite seasonal films is National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. I've seen that movie so many times I can recite every single line in my head from beginning to end. As I got older, however, I started to realize that most of my enjoyment from that film was based on nostalgia, rather than a continuing appreciation of it. The older I got, the less I liked it. I watched it with my wife's younger cousins last year and they didn't get it at all. Even I had to admit it wasn't really all that funny anymore. That was one of the first moments in my life where I really felt old.
For those of us who grew up in the 1980s and like to drink, there is a new classic holiday film that, for me personally, has become my new go-to during the Christmas season. Bad Santa is by far the funniest Christmas movie ever made – period. It's so funny that I'll watch it in the middle of Spring or Summer, regardless of whether I'm in the holiday spirit or not, because there are so few movies of this quality. It's not for everyone, though. It's very, very dirty and wrong in so many ways, but that's my sense of humor. The more inappropriate something is, the funnier it is to me. And there's a lot of boozing. Like last month's "whisky movie of the month," Giant with Rock Hudson, Beam's Old Grand-Dad orange label plays a huge role. Within the first ten minutes of the film there are seven different scenes involving alcohol – three of which are centered around Old Grand-Dad orange label.
If you tried to play a drinking game with Bad Santa, maybe taking a sip every time Billy Bob Thornton drinks, you'd be drunk in fifteen minutes. There's hardly a second where he's not taking a pull off a flask, holding a bottle of beer, or pounding a shot at the bar. If he gets into a car, a pile of beer cans will ultimately fall out of the open space. If he's left alone for a few seconds, a pile of beer cans will litter the ground around him when the camera returns. Bad Santa is one of the most prolific drinking films I've ever seen – even more so than Barfly, the Charles Bukowski classic with Mickey Rourke.
Bad Santa isn't all raunchy jokes and liquor, however. There is some quality, quality acting going on in this film. It's John Ritter's final role and he's perfect as the uncomfortable mall boss. The pudgy kid in the film is unreal, he's so funny I almost can't believe it. The late Bernie Mac is also a riot, and Tony Cox as the elf is the perfect rational counter to Billy Bob's angry, drunken drawl.
Whereas Christmas Vacation reminds me of a happy time when life was easy and carefree, Bad Santa is a heavy dose of reality. It's a movie for people who find the holidays stressful, worrisome, and anxiety-ridden: you know.....for adults.
Watch it. But only if you're not easily offended.