Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Mark Waters
Stars: Billy Bob Thornton, Kathy Bates, Tony Cox, Brett Kelly, Christine Hendricks, Ryan Hansen, Jeff Skowron, Mike Starr, Jenny Zigrino, Octavia Spencer.
Another unnecessary sequel that no-one particularly wanted or needed, this follow up to 2003’s Bad Santa is vulgar, puerile, largely unfunny and much of its tonally deaf humour falls flat. It comes thirteen years after the original. And like the recent Zoolander 2, a belated sequel which came fifteen years after the original, it seems that time has not been kind to the character, and its sense of humour now seems passe.
Gone are the original writers Glenn Ficcara and John requa and original director Terry Zwigoff, who largely shaped the black humour and subversive nature of the original. Replacing them are first time feature writer Johnny Rosenthal and screenwriter Shauna Cross (What To Expect When Expecting, Whip It, etc) who have served up a patchy script that comes across as mean spirited and nasty. It also repeats many of the ideas from the original. The writers seem to be trying to offend as many people as possible with their barrage of largely tasteless jokes about child abuse, racism, disabilities, minorities, autism. Most of the low brow humour seems obsessed with anal sex and tea bagging and falls flat. Most of the humour here misses the mark.
The director here is Mark Waters, better known for Mean Girls, one of the better teen coming of age comedies, and the Freaky Friday remake. Waters seems to be merely going through the motions here. He seems uncomfortable with the raunchy material, and he also doesn’t seem to be too invested in the material. This sequel lacks the spark of the original, which was politically incorrect and an antidote to most of the saccharine Yuletide cinematic offerings.
Billy Bob Thornton dons the vomit stained Santa suit again as he reprises his role as Willie Soke, the most wildly inappropriate store Santa you could imagine. He is a cynical, perennially drunk, sex-crazed, obnoxious and misanthropic foul mouthed crook who posed as a Santa Claus in order to gain access to shopping malls so he could rob them. Here he is lured to Chicago by his former accomplice, the larcenous and backstabbing diminutive sidekick Marcus (Tony Cox, also reprising his role). Marcus wants Willy’s help in ripping off a charity organisation to the tune of $2 million. The charity is run by the sex crazed Diane (Christine Hendricks, from The Neon Demon, etc) and her conniving, cheating husband (Ryan Hansen, typecast) who is also defrauding the organisation. Diane for some reason seems to fall for Willie’s crude charms.
But unfortunately Willie is also reunited with his mother Sunny (Oscar winner Kathy Bates), his mean spirited, hard drinking, potty mouthed and heavily tattooed mother, who is already working for the charity and has inside knowledge of its operations. Sunny was a former juvenile delinquent who apparently gave birth to Willie while still a teenager in detention. And it seems as if the apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree. Sunny is the quintessential bad mother whose lack of parenting skills and compassion and her attitude shows, to some degree, why Willie has turned out the way he is.
And Willie is also reunited with the dimwitted, naive but well meaning Thurman Merman (Brett Kelly) who has followed him to Chicago. Oscar winner Octavia Spencer (from The Help, etc) is wasted in a small and thankless cameo as a prostitute with a heart of gold who is hired to help Thurman lose his virginity.
Thornton for the most part looks a little bored this time around. He delivers some outrageous lines with his usual deadpan style and he can still deliver a nasty putdown with relish. There is a good dynamic between Thornton and Kelly though that does add a few moments of warmth and humour.
The casting of Bates as Willie’s trashy mother was an inspired piece of casting, but it can’t save the film. Bates is only seven years older than Thornton, so it is hard to believe her as Willie’s mother. However she has a nice way with her raunchy dialogue and she lacks vanity in the role. But she is far too good for this trash.
Bad Santa 2 is a mediocre comedy that joins the like of the dire Dirty Grandpa as one of the bigger turkeys of the year. If Bad Santa 2 was a Christmas present you would return it the next day and demand your money back.