After the remarkable one-two punch of Crumb and Ghost World, Terry Zwigoff eases into the mainstream with this R-rated holiday comedy (2003) about an alcoholic thief (Billy Bob Thornton) working as a department store Santa. He and his partner, a caustic dwarf (Tony Cox), show up in a different city every year and rip off the store safe on Christmas Eve, but their scam is complicated this time when a miserable fat kid (Bret Kelly) attaches himself to the bitter, foulmouthed Thornton. Joel and Ethan Coen wrote the story, using the ancient gag of the toxic Santa as a vehicle for their patented brand of misanthropy; Zwigoff and company wring some laughs out of it, though the tone is uniformly mean and vulgar. With Bernie Mac, Lauren Graham, and John Ritter in his last film.
Screens as part of a double feature with Scrooged (see separate listing). Tue 12/17.
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