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The Twelve Days of Bits-Mas!
Blu-ray Disc review by Todd Doogan of The Digital Bits

Bad(der) Santa: The Unrated Version and Director's Cut (Blu-ray Disc)

Bad(der) Santa: The Unrated Version & Director's Cut
2003 (2007) - Dimension Films (Buena Vista)
Released on Blu-ray Disc on November 20th, 2007.

Film Rating: A
Video (UR/DC - 1-20): 14/18
Audio (1-20): 14
Extras: A

Uncompressed PCMDolby Digital

Buy this Blu-ray now at Amazon!

The Kid: Your beard's not real.
Willie: No Shit. It was real, but I got sick and all the hair fell out.
The Kid: How come?
Willie: I loved a woman who wasn't clean.
The Kid: Mrs. Santa?
Willie: No, it was her sister.

So it's that time of year where, in the hopes of cramming some sort of holiday spirit down my gullet, I start watching endless streams of Christmas movies and TV specials. I've got them all - Year Without a Santa, The Grinch (animated, you betcha), Rudolph, It's a Wonderful Life, Christmas Carol, Scrooged, the Peanuts Christmas. Pretty much all of them are at my fingertips, thanks to DVD and Blu-ray. But really, nothing really warms my soul quite like Bad Santa.

Bad Santa follows a pretty bad fella by the name of Willie Stokes, and his partner-in-crime Marcus. They run a really righteous plan: Willie posses as a mall Santa, while Marcus is his Head Elf. Together, they case the local mall and, on Christmas Eve when security is its lightest, they rob the joint blind and disappear into the ether, no one the wiser. Then they separate and, right about the time their loot has run dry, it's time to do the whole grift over again. But this year ends up being a little different because of a kid, a crafty mall cop and a very hot bartender with a fetish for Santas. Bad Santa is pretty much the perfect black comedy: an almost unfilmable dark story (hatched from the minds of the Coen Brothers), filled with unredeemable characters who, in the end, don't really change. So f*&k you is the vibe, plus a lot of anti-cheer. Billy Bob Thornton as Willie is perfectly cast. You can practically smell his whiskey soaked beard through the TV. His performance is the stuff of legends. Sadly, it's a legend that, these days, he seems to be living through role after role... after role (Bad News Bears, School for Scoundrels, Mr. Woodcock). As a holiday film, Bad Santa is also almost perfect. Because, admit it - you've had enough of this vulgar holiday crap too. So why not have a vulgar, disgusting and hilarious film like Bad Santa represent that for you?

This Blu-ray version is a great way to experience the film again. In terms of video quality, the Blu-ray definitely ups the ante over the original DVD, although completists will want to keep the DVD as it has the original theatrical presentation that is set lacks. Even though both the unrated (Badder Santa) version and the new director's cut are presented in glorious 1080p, only the director’s cut is encoded with AVC. The Badder Santa cut uses VC-1. I found this to be a nice move, because the disc doesn't use seamless branching to create the separate cuts. Don't worry though, both versions have great color representation and very accurate flesh tones. The Badder Santa cut is the less impressive of the two versions on this disc, but it looks a lot better than the DVD cut released a few years ago. It remains reasonably sharp throughout the viewing, without any of the excessive edge enhancement or haloing that was evident in the DVD transfer. Audio is presented in an uncompressed PCM 5.1 track (as well as a standard Dolby Digital 5.1 track) for both cuts. Like most comedy soundtracks, they're very front-centered. The audio serves the film fine, but certainly won't impress anyone in a demo.

It's on the special features that this edition truly shines. First up is a commentary on the director's cut with director Terry Zwigoff and his film editor Robert Hoffman. It's a rather detailed track, full of dry humor (what else would you expect from Zwigoff) and lots of facts concerning the casting, the temperature during the shoot, the preview process and just how much this cut differs from the theatrical version. Next up is a brand new interview, conducted by Bad Santa/Zwigoff fan Roger Ebert, with the director and editor once again. There's not too much duplication of topics with the commentary, so it's definitely worth watching. Also on board is a selection of alternate and deleted scenes, including a fun piece starring Sarah Silverman. Finally, you get a gag reel, an EPK-styled behind-the-scenes piece, a reel of outtakes and a three-scene Movie Showcase feature.

Bad Santa isn't for everyone. Who it IS for are people with a sense of humor and an appreciation for dark comedies, and those who think that Christmas just isn't what it used to be. This Blu-ray edition looks great, has some fun features and it holds a terrific film. If you've seen Bad Santa before and loved it, go ahead and pick this edition up. If you haven't seen it yet, pop this sucker in and prepare to laugh. Or throw-up. Either way, it's good for what ails ya.

Todd Doogan
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