Offensive. Vulgar. Course. Raunchy. Hard-core. Ruthless. Shocking. Disturbing. Perverse. Twisted. Depraved. Jaded. And very funny.
Not for kids. And having never seen the film theatrically, I have no idea what’s “worse” about this unrated version. Quite a few times I found myself sitting there open-jawed staring at the screen in disbelief. And loving every minute.
For those of you not acquainted, Bad Santa (“Badder Santa” in the case of this unrated version) follows the escapades of a duo of crooks using a Santa/Elf gig as a way to break into department stores and steal big-time cash (well, more than I make in a year). Billy Bob Thorton does an outstanding job fleshing out his, well, bad-Santa character which is to be utterly reviled. He’s extreme, but in my opinion his character still manages to balance on the edge of something you can almost imagine…extreme but not a true farce.
Tony Cox does an equally outstanding job supplying the role of Marcus, the little-person who plays the part of the Elf in the team's duo and actually runs the show (why isn’t his picture on the DVD cover? Sheesh). He delivers some of the funniest lines in the film (non of which I can repeat verbatim here at HTF ) and despite some obvious playing off the “dwarf” issue in the film’s story line, the movie itself demonstrates a great deal of respect for the persons of such short stature (ie, he’s not a 2-dimensional character serving as some sort of cliché/gag like “Mini-Me” in Austin Powers). I’ll be soon be posting a review of the Station Agent which is another film that deals rather respectfully with this topic.
Bad Santa is a film that impressed me. This film will make you laugh and shudder with disgust all in one motion. And I was very surprised to find how touching the story managed to come together at the end. It’s nasty, dirty, and potty-mouthed, but it’s also intelligent, extremely well assembled, and pulls together for a purpose. In a very real sense, Bad Santa is really an interpretation of the “Grinch Who Stole Christmas” tale (the film makes its own allegorical reference to help those who may have trouble making the connection on their own...I could see it coming with the decorating of the Seuss-esque Christmas Tree). Cynics will enjoy it for all the obvious reasons. Those who are more romantic at heart may enjoy it for the less obvious ones.
I wasn’t able to view Bad Santa on the big screen (other than my own ) so I can only make assumptions about how accurately this DVD captures the intended look of the film. I’ll give you my objective impression of the appearance of this disc and those of you with theatrical memory chime in.
Standing in contradiction to the review of another excellent site, I’ll start off by saying that the image on this DVD, in overall terms, was satisfactory. Curiously (because these impressions differ from the other reviewer’s), I found the image to be as or slightly more detailed than the “average” DVD transfer with virtually no EE that I could see even from a single screen-width distance on my BenQ HD projector. My projector is calibrated to have a “flat” sharpness setting as is my DVD player (feeding the PJ via a 1280 x 720 scaled DVI connection) and in regards to ringing and such the chain is pretty faithful to whatever is on the disc (and does not contribute additional or exaggerated ringing). Detail was indeed slightly filtered, but not offensively so and certainly nothing to the level of what I saw on Kill Bill. Ironically, the Station Agent is a much more filtered image with obvious ringing on my system (ironic because another reviewer on the other site praised the Station Agent DVD image for its great detail and minimal EE!). In any case, this isn’t about who’s right…I’m just telling you what I see on my calibrated system.
Aside from some *slight* HF filtering, the only “problem” I noticed was that image contrast seemed a bit washed out…like the image lacked dynamic range. Black level seemed too “gray” to me and the picture never really took on a 3-dimensional appearance as a consequence of the subdued contrast. However, I’m fully prepared to attribute this characteristic of the picture to the film-source, so if you have an opinion based on more information please inform.
Compression seemed good and I wasn’t ever distracted by any obvious “MPEG” artifacting from my 1.75 screen-width viewing distance. I think that most people will find the image on this disc to be very film like. In my opinion, the greatest weakness was the apparent lack of contrast and weak black-level that resulted in an image that was ok, but lacked “punch”.
The 1.85:1 image is properly letterboxed in the 1.78:1 16x9 frame though only viewers with minimal overscan will notice (most displays overscan the very mild letterboxing of 1.85:1 in 16x9). This seems to be common practice with Disney titles and it's the most appropriate way to handle a true 1.85:1 transfer.
Picture: 4/ 5
The 5.1 audio mix was very well done. It didn’t draw attention to itself in terms of any aggressive surround mixing or bold effects, but the audio was solid, vocals were well delivered, and the musical score came across richly and with texture. Bass was deep during some of the musical numbers and gunshots. The scene where gun-shots are fired demonstrated just how dynamic and bold this soundtrack could be.
Bad Santa, despite what you might assume, is put together rather artfully; and the integration of music as a well executed connective and transitional theme is one of the key ways that it distinguishes itself from the everyday movie fan-fare. For this reason, the quality of the music delivery in the soundtrack is important, and it comes across with dimension, texture, weight, and a nicely presented soundstage that has convincing depth (depending on the score--the orchestral numbers had more depth than the studio-mixed songs). I might have preferred a little more activity in the rear channels, even if just ambience, to “tie in” the back of the room more effectively into the acoustic environment. But hey, this is a primarily dialog (and music) driven film so we can’t be too hard on the mixing engineers.
[b]Sound: 4/ 5
- Deleted Scenes: I counted three 4x3 lbxed deleted scenes. Interesting and some of them seemed that they would have been just fine left in the film. One of them is basically an alternate scene of sorts which was interesting to view.
- About/Making Of Documentary 4x3 full frame and about 10 minutes in length. This featurette tends to focus more on the actors and decisions about production than the usual “featurette” I’ve come across. That a good thing…it doesn’t waste too much time simply repeating scenes from the film which seems to be a common means of filling time in many of these featurettes I review. Even casual fans of the film will enjoy watching this and getting to know more about the actors and decisions that went on behind the scenes.
- Outtakes: 4x3 lbxed. Cute. Nothing earth shattering but fun to see some of the actors cutting up on the set and blowing takes with their giggles.
- Badder Santa Gag Reel: About five minutes worth of material. Supposedly only on this “unrated” DVD version. Very similar to the Outtakes but here you really get an unfiltered expression of some raunchy jokes and filthy language. Enjoyed it.
I don’t know if Bad Santa is a film that I’d “recommend” exactly. It’s a film that will no doubt disgust and offend a great many, and perhaps delight and entertain just as many or more. Go in knowing what you’re getting yourself into and watch it with an open mind. You just might find yourself enjoying the 98 minutes as much as I did. While not exactly the world’s most loaded special edition DVD, for a single-disc affair, Bad Santa comes to you with a reasonable supply of extras to keep you entertained after the credits have rolled. If you want to be shocked, offended, and made to laugh, give Badder Santa a try.