By Mark Saldana
Rating: 1.5 (Out of 4 Stars)
Too much shock, no heart, and too little wit make Bad Santa 2 a terrible sequel. All of the things that makes the first Bad Santa a raunchy holiday classic are mostly absent and that makes this latest installment an exercise in filth for lucre with no artistic integrity whatsoever. The film does offer a few genuine chuckles, but definitely not enough for me to award it a higher rating, or even a weak recommendation. Bad Santa 2, simply put, is a bad movie that I must encourage my readers to completely ignore this holiday season.
Billy Bob Thornton reprises his role as Willie Soke, a one-time professional safe cracker and thief who once posed as a department store Santa. Broke, unemployed and depressed, Willie reluctantly agrees to work with his former crime partner Marcus (Tony Cox), a diminutive thief who poses as Willie’s elf and uses his small stature to get into small spaces. This time the two thieves target a Chicago charity which employs Santas to collect donations on the streets. The crass and uncouth duo also decide to work with Willie’s estranged mother Sunny (Kathy Bates), an equally salty thief, who taught Willie everything he knows. The strained relationship between Willie and Sunny, along with the unexpected appearance of Willie’s friend Thurman Merman (Brett Kelly), and Willie’s penchant for booze and sex makes an already difficult job more complicated.
To be honest, though, this film really is not all that complicated. Written by Johnny Rosenthal, Shauna Cross, and directed by Mark Waters, Bad Santa 2 attempts to rehash the spirit and themes of the first film, but bungles it with too much raunch and not enough witty humor. The trouble, I have noticed, with raunchy comedy franchises, is that the sequels often try to out do the shock and awe of the previous films and this formula usually takes away from the heart and earnestness. That is exactly how Bad Santa 2 fails on an entertainment level. The humanity and sentiment of the film gets watered down with the sewage spewed out for shock value and never redeems itself.
Even Billy Bob Thornton comes across like he’s tired of portraying this kind of sleazy and salty character. His performance is almost completely flat and uninteresting. Tony Cox does his best with the material and delivers a performance with much zeal and energy. He has to work with horrible material, but at least he puts his heart into it. The same goes for Kathy Bates who puts her heart and passion into her role, but has material that just doesn’t do the talented actress justice. The only bright ray of sunshine in this fecal storm of a movie is Brett Kelly who reprises his role as the cheery man-child Thurman Merman. He brings some much needed earnestness and benevolence to a mostly malevolent movie, but also gets slighted by the material which pokes fun at the character’s developmental issues.
And that mean-spirited brand of humor prevails over any semblance of a heart that this film has. Bad Santa 2 should definitely be avoided like the plague by everyone. The producers of this franchise need to reconsider what the purpose is of this series before deciding to make any more sequels. All they have to do is re-watch the very first film, pay attention to things that make it warm and endearing, and not try to out-do the shocking and disturbing gags that made it a different brand of holiday movie.