I was actually going to review this with further chit-chat about the differences between 'Bad Santa' (the theatrical release) and 'Badder Santa' (the unrated version) as there's so many more laughs in the latter. But there's something I want to discuss more than just comedic differences. It's kind of hard to believe that at the time of writing this, this movie has been an (almost) annual watch since its 2003 release, and it only just this year clicked for me that, while very much played for laughs, there's a dark drama underneath it all.
To summarize, Willie T. Soke (Billy Bob Thornton) and his partner, a little person named Marcus Skidmore (Tony Cox), make a criminal career of annually posing as a mall Santa and his elf to research the ins and outs of the mall's security system and, as they close for Christmas, rob the place blind with Willie's safe-cracking skills as Marcus goes "shopping," taking whatever he can. They always seem to succeed, but while Marcus seems to do a good job at holding onto his share, Willie has a tendency to blow it all on a combination of drinking, prostitutes, strippers, presumably drugs, and who knows what else?
The film begins with a demonstration of all of this, including Willie pissing his share away, which very much establishes his character as a bit of a loser. The following year, Marcus calls him to do another job in Phoenix, where they meet the likes of mall owner Bob Chipeska (John Ritter) and chief of security Gin Slagel (Bernie Mac). Bob's a pushover character trying to do his job to the best of his abilities with this drinking, cursing Santa working his mall. But Gin is someone Willie and Marcus need to keep on their toes for.
In the meantime, Willie meets a kid named... well, his name is a pretty funny surprise upon its reveal, so I won't be spoiling anything if some of my readers haven't seen this yet. He's credited on IMDb as "The Kid" (Brett Kelly), so we'll go with that. To make a long story short, the kid is a perfect solution to Willie needing a hideout while the heat's on. He further meets a beautiful waitress named Sue (Lauren Graham), who provides another "convenience" for Willie as she fetishizes Santa Claus, and one can use one's imagination from there.
What's interesting is that when the film starts, Willie essentially tells us all about how much crap life has thrown at him, and he comes across as a character we don't want to sympathize with. We sort of take him as the loser and everyone else as some kind of "professional" or at least "better" than him. As the film unfolds, he meets the kid and Sue, both of whom are very likable characters in their own ways, and by the end of the film, we find that Willie is a character to route for because Sue and the kid seem to bring his "good" back.
Willie is a hard character to actually route for, as we constantly see him at his lowest lows, and his only highs seem to come from the bottle and sex where he can get it. He almost shoves how much of a "loser" he is in your face, and Marcus lets the audience know how he feels by what he says. But over time, I've learned to empathize with Willie far before we're "supposed to." Put simply, Willie's an alcoholic with an extremely negative outlook on life, and it takes the kid and Sue to bring him back around.
So, while this film is an altogether hilarious, raunchy comedy on the surface, it also covers being at one's absolute rock bottom and the idea that there's still a glimmer of hope in a sea of people who seemingly hate you. The kid holds a mirror to his "loser" side, and Willie learns to help him. Sue, meanwhile, brings him back to not only the love of a woman he doesn't have to pay for but, I'd also say, his humanitarian side to some degree. While this is still great on the surface as a raunchy comedy, take what I've said into consideration the next time you watch it and try to put yourself in Willie's shoes. You might be surprised to find your heartstrings actually getting a little tug.