UK Release Date: 23rd November 2016
Runtime: 92 minutes
Director: Mark Waters
Writer: Johnny Rosenthal, Shauna Cross
Starring: Billy Bob Thornton, Tony Cox, Kathy Bates, Christina Hendricks, Brett Kelly, Ryan Hansen
Synopsis: A face from Willie’s past who he never expected to see again brings him back into the world of festive thieving as they attempt to nick a load of cash from a charity on Christmas Eve.
It has been 30 years since the foul-mouthed, vulgar Bad Santa became a surprising addition to the festive canon. It is now an enduring holiday classic for a certain kind of misanthropic festive filmgoer, with its oddly heartfelt story running parallel to the swearing, sex and stealing of the main storyline. Despite the success of the first film, no one was clamouring for a sequel. This was a movie that worked as a self-contained tale and, on the strength of this utterly abysmal film from Mean Girls director Mark Waters, it should absolutely have stayed that way.
Willie (Billy Bob Thornton) is at the end of his tether after his ‘happy ending’ fell apart, receiving regular visits from the now grown up Thurman (Brett Kelly). He is summoned to a meeting by former partner in crime Marcus (Tony Cox) and the pair reconcile after Marcus attempted to kill Willie in the first film. Marcus has a job for Willie, cracking a safe belonging to a charity, and they will be working with Willie’s vulgar mother Sunny (Kathy Bates). As they plan the Christmas Eve job, Willie becomes close with Diane (Christina Hendricks), who runs the charity.
Bad Santa 2 is yet another example of a phenomenon that has been rather common in 2016. Like Zoolander 2 and Independence Day: Resurgence, it’s a belated sequel that has no idea why the original film was a success. Rather than return to the first film’s careful mix of cynicism and Christmas cheer, this is a movie that is content to wallow in filth and four letter words for a 90 minutes that seems to drag on forever like a Boxing Day game of Monopoly that you’re still playing in the New Year.
It’s a shame to see Waters continuing on such a dismal career decline, with this the follow-up to the utterly awful Twilight spoof Vampires Suck. The fact that the man who once directed one of the defining teen movies of a generation can be reduced to this shows how important it is to have a good script in place. Bad Santa 2 doesn’t seem to have a script beyond various scenes of Thornton being masturbated and a selection of excruciating jokes about Cox being short. It’s simply an onslaught of sex and swearing and sex and swearing that just repeats until everyone in the cinema wants to vomit into a Santa hat.
Billy Bob Thornton looks like he’s sleepwalking through the film barely even aware that he’s there and it’s unclear whether that’s a reflection of the character or of the actor’s own dissatisfaction. There’s no such ambiguity with the other cast members, who uniformly seem to look as if they would rather be anywhere else. In fact, the film’s only casting bright spot is Kathy Bates, who at least gets her teeth into the acerbic insults she delivers to her son. When she’s on screen, there’s at least a flicker of comedy at play.
Nothing about Bad Santa 2 justifies dredging up a fun, solid Christmas comedy for another go around. After a year as depressing and terrifying as 2016, the last thing the world needs is a Christmas movie that simply reinforces the perception that everything is awful and is probably going to stay that way for the foreseeable future. It’s the cinematic equivalent of your second cousin regifting you a crappy sweater you bought ten years ago, except now the colour has faded and it has shrunk in the wash.
Pop or Poop?
Billy Bob Thornton is back in body, if not in spirit, for a festive comedy that is neither particularly festive or at all comedic. Bad Santa 2 is the worst kind of attempt at a simple cash-in. It’s a risk averse movie that seems to forget that its predecessor worked precisely because it was unconventional and a little daring. If you find this one under the Christmas tree, you better hope someone kept the receipt.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.
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