Bad Santa: Director’s Cut

Synopsis: The baddest Santa ever comes to town in this never-before-seen exclusive director’s cut starring the hilarious Billy Bob Thornton (The Alamo), Bernie Mac (Ocean’s 12), and John Ritter (TV’s 8 Simple Rules). Ill-mannered store Santa Willie Stokes (Thornton) is really a safecracker with a holiday tradition of making one big score every Christmas Eve with his clever elf – partner-in-crime, Marcus. But this year’s heist-fest could be completely foiled by a snoopy store manager (Ritter), savvy mall detective (Mac), sexy Santa fan, and an innocent 8-year-old misfit who thinks the intoxicated and felonious Willie is the real Santa he seeks. Forget the cookies and milk; this is the grittier gut-busting comedy Rolling Stone pegs as “a Christmas perennial for Scrooges of all ages!”
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Bad Santa: Director’s Cut 7.0

“You people are monsters. Look at all that $#!t. Do you really need all that $#!t? For Christ sakes, it’s Christmas.”

Bad Santa. I would never have seen this film based on the title alone. “Bad Santa”. It sounds like anything but a masterpiece. rolleye0015 Free Emoticons   Rolling Eyes

But a friend of mine asked me to pick up a previously viewed copy for him and I decided to watch it that evening, before bringing it in to the office the next day. I was a little intrigued to know why this made his “must buy” list, so I figured: “Why the heck not?” happy0024 Free Emoticons   Happy

I discovered in ‘Bad Santa’ (at least, the Unrated version – seeing as I never saw the Rated or Edited-for-television versions) the perfect Christmas movie. At least, perfect for those times when I’m feeling rather cynical about Christmas, that is. winking0002 Free Emoticons   Winking

So I also ended up buying the DVD, and have introduced other friends to the film. I’ve since upgraded the DVD to the Blu-ray – not because it would look or sound better (who really cares? It’s ‘Bad Santa’, for Chrissakes!), but because it includes both home video versions on one disc along with a few new features. Plus it was a cheap buy.

Well, I didn’t expect this, in light of how much I love the movie, but I have very mixed feelings about this Director’s Cut. indifferent0004 Free Emoticons   Indifferent

On the one hand, I feel bad for Terry Zwigoff, who had to alter his vision due to those ghastly pre-screenings that most Hollywood films go through – resulting in the producers wanting a film with more mass appeal. mad0071 Free Emoticons   Anger For any artist, having to go off-course is soul-destroying – art being a form of self-expression.

But, on the other hand, I am of the opinion that the theatrical version is vastly superior. I’ve liked all of Zwigoff’s films thus far, and consider myself a fan, but I’m sorry to say that this is one instance in which I must disagree with him.

In quite a few cases, different takes were used or small snippets were inserted. Some of them work well, but none of them better the originals; most are weaker choices, quite frankly. The editing choices are also different, which is, at best, interesting to compare.

*Spoiler warning*
For starters, the beginning is different; a lot of material that was in the theatrical version isn’t in this one. Directors’ Cuts are frequently longer. Not so here. The problem in making these cuts is that Willie’s motivation has been changed by removing his desire to quit the game.

This also dramatically affects our perception of his partner because his decision to get rid of Willie seems to come out of nowhere. In the theatrical version, at least it looked premeditated, as though he had planned this all along.
*Spoiler warning*

Also, in the Director’s Cut, some of the humour is punched up with quicker editing, which is sort of annoying, actually: it lacks subtlety and is more reminiscent of the kind of ’90s films I don’t like. It’s as if they had to put the humour in our faces in case we dared to miss it. mad0137 Free Emoticons   Anger

And yet, it’s a much grimmer film. The Director’s Cut misses many beats that made the theatrical version light enough to enjoy. By having more contrast between the humour and the darker bits, it made it more palatable and made the characters less unlikeable and more relatable.

…which may not be true to the characters, as Zwigoff claims, but no one wants to hate their protagonists. And, anyway, I felt that the theatrical version had struck the right balance. We didn’t like Willie, but at least we felt that there was more to him than just being an “eating, drinking, $#!tting, f-ing Santy Claus”. tongue0024 Free Emoticons   Sticking Out Tongue

In the end, I firmly believe that the Director’s Cut is a weaker film, emotionally-true or not. Thus, at the present, I’d suggest keeping it under wraps this Christmas.

“Somebody stick a cork in those f-ing kids!”

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