Bad Santa (Blu-ray)
Blu-ray A - America - Buena Vista Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Noor Razzak (28th November 2007).
The Film

"Bad Santa" is a dark comedy about a down and out criminal (Billy Bob Thornton) who each festival season (that's right you can't say Christmas, it's offensive) dons his fake white beard, red jacket and pants and proceeds to hustle a store manager into giving him a gig as a store santa. After getting the job he and his midget accomplice (Tony Cox) then proceeds to rob the store on Christmas eve, so you know your regular happy go lucky Christmas tale of doing good to your fellow man here. The story itself unfolds with standard predictability just with a slightly disguised revelation that the down and out Billy Bob Thornton realizes the folly of his ways and tries to do the right thing all be it in his own cussing way.
That's right if you are offended by swear words I seriously recommend you do not see this movie because it will offend the fuck out of you. Every second line has some sort of profanity in it, not just your regular foul language the creative kind as well. Expressions that would otherwise be clean and pure are converted into sentences that would make a prisoner/builder/sailor blush (not necessarily because they were offended but more because they would feel as if they were unable to match the creative flair with which this movie uses expletives. I don't know any prisoner/builder/sailors as they tend to run in different social circles)
The style of this movie is nothing special with nothing that really catches the eye and makes you think 'wow this is a feast for the eyes'. The soundtrack is somewhat stereotypical of any Christmas movie, even if this is far less than a stereotypical Christmas movie.
The acting is average, Billy Bob Thornton plays a drunk, Bernie Mac is almost funny and Tony Cox is small, but has a big performance. None of these things seemed to be a stretch for these actors.
I don't know if I wasn't in the mood for this movie when I saw it, if it is just an average movie, I know people who think it's absolutely fantastic, but for me it was a pretty standard movie with a few redeeming moments that kept you moderately interested throughout but never made you sit up and take notice.

This release includes both the longer 100 minute 'Unrated Cut' as well as the shorter and much darker 'Director's Cut' version of the film. The differences are rather plentiful but may not be immediately noticeable. The difference between these two version include some scenes from the 'Director's Cut' being shifted to appear earlier but the most noticeable differences are:

- The voice over from the start of the film has been removed in the 'Director's Cut'.
- The scene where Thornton teaches the Kid boxing has been deleted from the 'Director's Cut'.
- Some scenes have been shortened by a few seconds (not sure which exactly as they didn't go into specifics)
- Some scenes have been moved, one example is the Kid's first appearance when he gets off the bus to go visit Santa has been moved backed a few scenes. The Scene when a drunk Thornton stumbles to his chair and punches the fake donkey in the head has also been moved.
- The scenes in Florida have been removed from the 'Director's Cut'.

Overall the tone has changed to make the Thornton character a little more unfavorable and the scenes where he is starting to like the Kid have been pushed to near the end of the film because the director thought that his character would not immediately like the Kid and therefore the end scene with him trying to deliver the pink elephant has more impact.

Video

Presented in the film's original theatrical ratio of 1.85:1 this high-definition transfer is presented in 1080p at 24/fps and has been created using VC-1 compression. The transfer is a significant improvement over the DVD release in many areas, sharpness is improved as is detail, the colors are vibrant and lush and I spotted no artefacts or edge-enhancement. The print is mainly clean although I did notice a few specks, I also found the image a bit dark at times, especially dimly lit bar scenes appeared a bit flat. While still a decent transfer it's far from the best I've seen on this format.

Audio

Two audio tracks are included in English Uncompressed PCM 5.1 as well as a standard English Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track. Both versions of the film features these two sound options and I chose to view these films with the PCM track. The PCM is also a slight upgrade from the Dolby mix opening up the range a bit more, the sequences in the malls feel like they have more depth. Dialogue is clear and distortion free and the films score makes good use of the surround channels, but that's about it, the track isn't entirely aggressive because of the nature of the film and doesn't really have too much by way of directional effects and such. As far as a comedy film goes the soundtrack does a decent job.

Optional subtitles are included in English for the hearing impaired, French and Spanish.

Extras

Buena Vista Home Entertainment has released this film with extras that include an audio commentary, an interview, deleted and alternate scenes, a featurette, a gag reel, outtakes and a series of bonus trailers below is a closer look at these supplements.

First up is an all new feature-length audio commentary by director Terry Zwigoff and editor Robert Hoffman available only on the 'Director's Cut' version of the film. In this track Zwigoff is somewhat surprised he got a chance to release his version of the film, he comments on the creative decisions the studio made to the film that he never liked, one of which was the voice over at the start which is now removed, also the studio edits showed the Willie character take a liking to the Kid Thurman a lot sooner than Zwigoff intended. He and his editor comment on the minor changes that shift the character's tone slightly more to the unfavorable. Comments are also made about test audiences, locations, cast and story elements. He openly talks about parts that were rewritten and changed by various people including the Joel and Ethan Coen. Hoffman comments on the use of classic music and using music and sound to heighten certain scenes. For the most part this is a screen-specific track that occasionally has gaps of silence, but for the most part it's the highlight extra on this disc and makes for some interesting listening.

Next is an in-depth interview with director Terry Zwigoff and editor Robert Hoffman conducted by film critic Roger Ebert which runs for 27 minutes 31 seconds. The interview was conducted at Ebertfest Film Festival after a screening of the 'Director's Cut' version of the film. The director tends to answer the questions with the editor occasionally putting in his 2 cents. Zwigoff talks about the Coen Brother's contribution to the film, on remaining honest with the characters, on test screenings and the initial reaction to the film, as well as different scenes that were shot including alternate scenes to lighten the mood of the film, on the myth that Thornton was drunk during the shooting, the casting of the Kid as well as Tony Cox and shooting scenes with child extras among other things including his other films.

A series of 3 deleted and alternate scenes is included, these can be viewed individually or with a 'play all' option, the scenes included are:

- "Santa Trainer" which runs for 1 minute 42 seconds and is a scene at a Santa School, with comedienne Sarah Silverman teaching the class how to get a smile from the kids.
- "Willie Leaves Department Store" runs for 1 minute 49 seconds, this is a reel of three different versions of the scene where the security guard holds back Willie from leaving and questions him if he's stolen anything.
- "Screaming Baby" runs for 1 minute 39 seconds, Marcus places a crying baby on Willie's lap as he gives him flack for being a worthless drunken Santa.

An EPK featurette entitled "Behind-The-Scenes Special" follows and runs for 9 minutes 29 seconds, this is a promotional clip that has no real value other than trying to sell the film to audiences. The clip covers in brief the script concept, finding a director and studio to make the film as well as casting the various roles in the film.

"Badder Santa" is a gag reel that runs for 1 minute 29 seconds and features the cast swearing a lot on camera when they messed up their lines.

A collection of outtakes is next and runs for 4 minutes 1 second, this reel features some unused footage as well as the occasional line flub, missed cue and what can essentially be called a blooper as well as some minor improv moments that end in actors cracking up.

Rounding out the extras are a series of start-up bonus trailers for:

- "Disney Blu-ray" spot which runs for 1 minute 20 seconds.
- "National Treasure: Book of Secrets" which runs for 2 minutes 33 seconds.
- "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End" which runs for 2 minutes 36 seconds.

Finally this first disc also includes a "Movie Showcase" on the 'Director's Cut' version of the film, which jumps to three key reference scenes that show off the high-definition quality.

Overall

The Film: B- Video: B+ Audio: B+ Extras: B- Overall: B+

 


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