Bad Santa 2 isn’t the worst sequel to come out in 2016, not by a long shot. That title goes to Zoolander 2 for reasons I’d rather forget. That said Bad Santa 2 is still a bad sequel and a bad movie overall. Sure, there are a couple of laughs every now and again and some moments tug lightly on the heartstrings but it’s just not as good as the original. Many films were considered a breath of fresh air in their respective genres. Bad Santa was more like a long, wet fart in terms of the festive genre it vomited all over back in November 2003. Next to it Bad Santa 2 just feels like a puff of stagnant air.
Bad Santa 2 picks up thirteen years after the original ended. Willie Tugboat Soke (Billy Bob Thornton) is given a letter by his weird, abnormally large sort-of-friend/surrogate son Thurman Merman (Brett Kelly). The letter is from his former dwarf accomplice Marcus Skidmore (Tony Cox). Willie meets with Marcus and together they travel to Chicago to rob a charity run by do-gooder couple Diane (Christina Hendricks) and Regent (Ryan Hansen). While there they team up with Sunny Soke (Kathy Bates), Willie’s mother. This cast of degenerates, alcoholics and deviants still can’t save Bad Santa 2 from a weak script and a poor story however.
If there was one thing Bad Santa had in spades it was crass, filthy, rotten humour. Whether that’s your cup of tea or not doesn’t matter it made the movie what it was and it pulled no punches doing it. Take for example the moment Marcus sums up Willie in only fifteen words: “You an emotional fuckin’ cripple. Your soul is dog shit. Everything about you is ugly!” It’s lines like that that really slam home how energetic and creative the barbed one liners were in the original. Tony Cox might not be the best actor but his delivery was always on point. Sadly, nothing so memorable is said in Bad Santa 2 and the story only lets it down further.
Gross out comedies from 2003 seem a lot less cynical now. There was always someone to take the edge off Willie Soke’s alcoholism, sex addiction and/or his obvious mental illnesses. In 2016 however cynicism is here to stay. Thornton is as reliably misanthropic as ever and Kathy Bates jumps through hoops trying to out-curse the rest of the cast; seriously the woman could make a sailor blush. Meanwhile every other character is mired in some deep pit of emotional faecal matter. Bad Santa 2 strips away most of what could have made it in anyway sympathetic or decent and just goes for broke in terms of how shitty its characters can get.
Now I know what you’re thinking. Are there any major redeeming points for this movie? The answer is not really. No major ones at least. As I said before the odd joke lands especially the one at the end which I won’t spoil but is worth the wait if you can stomach the first ninety-one minutes. And it goes without saying that Brett Kelly’s returning performance as Thurman Merman is equal parts hilarious, sad, and sympathetic. Still the occasional chuckle and one well-rounded performance does not a good film make.
Overall Bad Santa 2 just feels unnecessary. Fans of the original might find something to like here but ultimately this was never going to be the sequel Bad Santa deserved. The original was a flash in the pan. Think of how many Christmas gross out comedies there are. Then narrow it down to just the good ones. That should tell you all you need to know about Bad Santa 2.
Bad Santa 2 is in cinemas from Wednesday 23rd November.
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