Chicago Reader review:
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. With Bernie Mac, Lauren Graham, and John Ritter in his last film.
Here (and above) is the trailer.
No 2: 'Quote-along' Elf (Favreau, 2003): Prince Charles Cinema, 6.45pm
Time Out review:
'Comedy legend Bob Newhart immediately raises a smile as the elderly elf framing the story of Santa's biggest little helper. Buddy (Will Ferrell) is different because he's a human, brought back to the North Pole as a baby when he strayed into the old boy's sack during the Christmas run. He's been raised in the traditional elfin ways of industrious good humour, but now it's time for him to venture to distant New York and discover his real father is a grumpy publisher (James Caan), who naturally thinks his 'son' is a dangerous loony. Must be the tights and the pointy hat. What follows is a fairly predictable 'fish out of water' romp with seasonal bells on. Nevertheless, Favreau delivers the cornball sentiments with an adept balance of irony and sincerity, sprinkling felicities in the margins - cult crooner Leon Redbone voicing a stop-motion snowman, indie fave Zooey Deschanel as the department store helper giving Ferrell understandable tingles, and a particularly successful running gag enshrining the significance of etch-a-sketch in elf culture. Some humour might sail over the heads of the very young, but there's a higher chuckle rate for the grown-ups than much dread 'family' fare.'
Here is the Santa announcement scene.