BAD SANTA 2 (USA/16/92mins)
Directed by Mark Waters. Starring Billy Bob Thornton, Tony Cox, Kathy Bates, Christina Hendricks, Ryan Hansen
THE PLOT: “Happy endings are bullsh*t” says Willie (Billy Bob Thornton), while quickly recapping the audience about what happened between the first Bad Santa film and this new instalment. The relationship that Willie struck up at the start of the first film is long over, and Willie is drunk and suicidal most of the time, so when his old frenemy Marcus (Tony Cox) reappears in his life with a plan to rip off a charity to the tune of $2 million, Willie packs his bags and heads to Chicago. The trouble is that Marcus has another accomplice, someone that Willie never thought he would see again.
THE VERDICT: The first ‘Bad Santa’ film was a surprise hit, and a sequel has been in development for some time, but although Thornton and Cox are joined by a great cast, including Kathy Bates, Christina Hendricks and Ryan Hansen, ‘Bad Santa 2’ is the victim of its own profanity, finally living up to its title.
Billy Bob Thornton and Tony Cox reprise their roles as Willie and Marcus, and both characters feel familiar, and as though they have learned nothing since the first film, this may be the premise for a good comedy, but they are let down by a messy script. Brett Kelly also returns to his role as The Kid – also known as Thurman Merman – from the first film, and although he tries hard, he brings precious little to the film. Kathy Bates is on strong form, and tries her best to show the rest of the cast what comic timing really is, while Christina Hendricks and Ryan Hansen are completely underused and never really given a chance.
Johnny Rosenthal and Shauna Cross’s screenplay tries to make Willie and his cohorts wilder and worse than they were in the first film, but filling the 92 minute running time with profanity and sex does not make for an engaging film. There is precious little story to ‘Bad Santa 2’, which leaves the cast and their characters out in the cold, trying to make toilet humour engaging over the course of an hour and a half.
As director Mark Waters never manages to get the ‘Bad Santa 2’ moving fast enough for it to feel anything but drawn out, with the gaps filled with profanity. There is no doubt that profanity can be funny, but less is certainly more; a lesson that ‘Bad Santa 2’ does not seem to have heard of. The cast are let down by a weak script, and their comic timing is most decidedly off, with the exception of Kathy Bates.
In all, ‘Bad Santa 2’ is an unfunny, profane and drawn out film that lacks a story and pace. Bad Santa may have been so wrong it was right, but ‘Bad Santa 2’ is just wrong.
Rating: 1/5
Review by Brogen Hayes

  • filmbuff2011

    There should be a rule that sequels should be made within 5 years of the original. Any later than that and the sequel risks losing out on audience goodwill and instead feels like a nostalgic cash-in. It certainly didn’t work for Blues Brothers 2000 and predictably it hasn’t worked either for Bad Santa 2.

    13 years later, we meet up with lifelong drunk Willie (Billy Bob Thornton) as he’s about to hit rock bottom (again). This time he really means it though and makes fumbled attempts at suicide. That is, until a now grown-up Thurman (Brett Kelly) saves him from himself. Willie needs to change and the first step is letting bygones be bygones with former compadre Marcus (Tony Cox), the eternally angry dwarf who almost killed him last time. Marcus ropes Willie into a new scheme to knock off a Chicago charity on Christmas Eve. When Willie arrives in Chicago, he’s faced with his horrible mother Sunny (Kathy Bates) and punches her in the face. However, she manipulates him into sticking with the plan to crack the safe upstairs. In the meantime, Willie flirts with charity help Diane (Christina Hendricks) and re-connects with Thurman, who arrives in Chicago with wide-eyed innocence…

    2003’s Bad Santa had just the right amount of wicked humour, well-written characters and a bittersweet story about companionship wrapped up in an untidy bow. It was the perfect antidote to the sickly sweet Christmas movies released at this time of the year and became a sleeper hit. It also contributed towards the creation of the 16 cert here, as parents complained to IFCO about the lenient 15A rating given to it. 2016 is less forgiving though. We’d expect Willie to have matured or moved-on to some degree by now, but he’s still the same. In other words, writers Johnny Rosenthal and Shauna Cross decided not to take risks and just deliver more of the same – just older and not wiser. Another crucial change is that original director Terry Zwigoff is nowhere to be seen. He hasn’t made a film in a decade, so the director’s megaphone has been passed over to Mark ‘Mean Girls’ Waters. It’s a shame Zwigoff didn’t come back, as his dry, biting sense of humour is mostly lacking here.

    The script does have some mildly amusing moments, courtesy of a truly despicable monster of a mother, thanks to Bates as you’ve rarely seen her before. Thornton has some fun too. However, the humour feels blunted and crude, as if the cast were desperate to recapture the magic of the original. Lightning doesn’t strike twice though – not with this film anyway. There’s no one scene which makes you fall out of your seat with howls of laughter. The original achieved that many times. Yes, there’s the comedy value of Willie being subjected to constant verbal abuse from Marcus or having a child tell Willie what he/she wants for Christmas, as the man himself looks on in utter, drunken confusion. But it feels lesser to the point where it becomes ‘same old, same old’. A finale involving a convention of Santas feels like a final gasp for attention, but ends up flat on its face in the snow. In the end, Bad Santa 2 is late to the party, tired out and unable to re-connect with its former self. You’d be better off not spoiling your fond memories of the original with this disappointing, sadly unnecessary sequel. **