If nothing else, Bad Santa 2 certainly carries on the spirit of 2003’s Bad Santa. While the material isn’t near as fresh or well-written as it was thirteen years ago, the film still delivers the kind of rapid-fire insult humor and anti-Christmas vibe that propelled the original to cult status. It’s fun to see most of the original cast back in action, but it’s the absence of the original players behind the scenes that makes the biggest difference.
In the thirteen years since the events of the original film, Willie’s (Thornton) life hasn’t improved much. He’s still a lost alcoholic whose life is “pure shit” on a good day. After doing ten years in prison for his crimes in the first movie, Marcus (Cox), is out and ready to pull off a new job. He reunites with Willie – quite easily considering he tried to kill him during the previous heist – to knock off a charity in Chicago. Willie’s mom, Sunny (Bates, clearly having a blast being this raunchy), is also in on the action as she can play a very convincing Mrs. Claus. Following them on their journey from Phoenix to Chicago is Thurman Merman (Kelly), now twenty-one and just as nonsensical as ever.
The plot here is recycled lock, stock, and barrel from the original. Some attempts are made to raise the stakes with it being an estimated $2 million on the line, but the movie lives and dies by the performances and jokes. This is where the absence of director Terry Zwigoff and writers Glenn Ficarra and John Requa really become apparent. It’s more of a mixed bag this time around, with the comic timing and pacing not as crisp as before. Fortunately, Thornton and Cox still have a unique chemistry that reigns in a lot of laughs through insult humor and sight gags. The addition of the traditionally-serious Kathy Bates is the film’s smartest move. She revels in playing a character that refers to her son as “shit stick” and the over-top-nature pays off nicely in a late scene at SantaCon. Kelly, reprising his role as the ever-strange Thurman, could have been left out completely with little effect on the plot. His character’s weirdness plays more bizarrely as an adult, but it’s frustratingly one-note. Christina Hendricks steps in to the Lauren Graham role from the first film, this time as a seemingly squeaky clean charity worker who can’t contain her lust for a man dressed as Santa.
Fans of the original know what to expect here. If you can’t get enough of Bad Santa‘s mean streak, you’ll find plenty to enjoy in Bad Santa 2. It’s an inferior sequel like most are, but it coasts by on some fun performances and just enough empathy after all the f-bombs and crude sex talk are spewed.
Studio: Broad Green Pictures
Length: 92 Minutes
Rating: R for crude sexual content and language throughout, and some graphic nudity.
Theatrical Release: November 23, 2016
Directed by: Mark Waters
Written by: Johnny Rosenthal & Shauna Cross. Characters created by Glenn Ficarra & John Requa.
Cast: Billy Bob Thornton, Kathy Bates, Tony Cox, Christina Hendricks, Brett Kelly