Director: Mark Waters
Cast: Billy Bob Thornton, Kathy Bates, Christina Hendricks, Tony Cox, Brett Kelly, Ryan Hansen, Jenny Zigrino, Jeff Skowron
Runtime: 1 hr 27 mins
Released By: Golden Village Pictures
Official Website: http://www.badsanta2.com
Opening Day: 24 November 2016
Synopsis: BAD SANTA 2 returns BILLY BOB THORNTON to the screen as America's favorite anti-hero, Willie Soke. Fueled by cheap whiskey, greed, and hatred, Willie teams up once again with his angry little sidekick, Marcus (TONY COX), to knock off a Chicago charity on Christmas Eve. Along for the ride is 'the kid' - chubby and cheery Thurman Merman (BRETT KELLY), a 250-pound ray of sunshine who brings out Willie's sliver of humanity. Mommy issues arise when the pair are joined by KATHY BATES, as Willie's horror story of a mother, Sunny Soke. A super butch super bitch, Sunny raises the bar for the gang's ambitions, while somehow lowering the standards of criminal behavior. Willie is further burdened by lusting after the curvaceous and prim Diane, played by CHRISTINA HENDRICKS, the charity director with a heart of gold and libido of steel. You better watch out: BAD SANTA 2 is coming to town.
Thirteen years after turning the traditional Christmas feel-good comedy on its head with the foul-mouthed black comedy ‘Bad Santa’, Billy Bob Thornton is back to reprise his role as the no-good low-life criminal Willie T. Stokes, who tells us in his opening narration that his life hasn’t gotten better at all since we left him. Not only has his previous love interest Sue left him after one too many bouts of drunkenness, his lascivious tendencies have not done him any favours as well – as an opening prologue which sees him crashing the car he is meant to valet park after getting distracted by a busty young mother breastfeeding her baby by the side of the road shows. In fact, it has gotten so hopeless for him that he has resorted to leaving a suicide note on the counter of his squalid apartment, before attempting to kill himself by sticking his head into an oven, and when that doesn’t work, stringing himself from the ceiling using the wire of a toaster.
Thankfully for Willie, he still has the occasional company of the sweet and still very much naïve Thurman (Brett Kelly), no longer the eight-year-old kid who believed so wholeheartedly in Santa but nonetheless a twenty-one year old who has yet to ‘pop his cherry’ (which Willie hires a prostitute to change out of ‘goodwill’). Thurman brings a package from Marcus (Tony Cox), who rounds out the triptych of cast/ characters from the previous movie who return for this belated sequel. Let out of jail early due to overcrowding, Marcus extends a gesture of reconciliation by offering Willie a job that will give two million dollars in cash – an offer which Willie finds difficult to refuse, even after discovering that it was in fact initiated by his ‘lousy’ mother Sunny (Kathy Bates) and involves ripping off the money collected from donations by a charity organization known as ‘Giving City’ (though to be fair, he does experience some revulsion from the former and a short crisis of conscience from the latter).
Neither its creators Glenn Ficarra and John Requa nor its director Terry Zwigoff return for this reunion of sorts, which probably explains why this follow-up lacks the comic edge of its predecessor, despite being just as coarse, vulgar and politically incorrect. Sticking pretty much to the template left behind by Ficarra and Requa, the scripting duo of Johnny Rosenthal and Shauna Cross continue the testy relationship between Willie and Marcus (whose conversations consist primarily of trading insults at each other), the father-son bonding between Willie and Thurman (the latter of whom journeys from Arizona to Chicago on his own in order to be with Willie), and another unlikely love interest/ ‘f**k buddy’ relationship between Willie and ‘Giving City’s’ co-founder Diane Hastings (Christina Hendricks) using the excuse that the latter is trapped in a loveless cum sex-less marriage with her greedy adulterous husband Regent (Ryan Hansen). The only new dimension here is the love-hate relationship between Willie and his mother Sunny, an equally potty-mouthed crook who gave birth to him in penitentiary and whom he blames for his subsequent life of misery.
Yet that is not enough to compensate for a dearth of genuine emotion in a movie that once knew how to be sweet even as it wanted to be rude. Whereas that with Sue and Thurman previously revealed Willie to be the kind-hearted but rough-at-the-edges person we always suspected he was, there is little in each one of Willie’s overlapping relationships that achieve similar pathos: though it does hint that Diane sees a better person in Willie by arranging for him to attend an AA meeting together, their relationship is reduced to no more than a sexual one once she decides to end her decade-long sexual moratorium; aside from the obligatory happy ending that sees Willie turn up at his caroling solo and embrace him as family, Thurman is pretty much sidelined throughout the entire movie; and last but not least, Sunny’s attempt to make amends for the mother she should have been to Willie starts out rather moving but ends up being disingenuous following a late twist that exposes her true intentions.
How much you enjoy ‘Bad Santa 2’ therefore depends on your appetite for crude and even profane humour (which the current political climate may or may not have a bearing on). Oh yes, Marcus’ ‘colour’ and height are running jokes here – like how Willie tells Marcus that “they used to sterilize people like [you] to prevent the world from turning into a Negro land of Oz’ or how the well-rounded female security guard Gina (Jenny Zigrino) declines having sex with Marcus on account that it will be like “doing it with a Chihuahua”. Any and every opportunity to make it about sex is also exploited to the max, be it sexual repression a la Diane or just pure lust a la Willie, Marcus, Gina, Regent and even Sunny. Though it may have been a delightfully obscene alternative to the usual Christmas tosh then, the deluge of lewd explicit R-rated comedies which have followed in the wake of ‘The Hangover’ means that there is no longer the same novelty as its predecessor had before.
Without offering much reason why we should care about Willie and his miserable f**ked-up life, ‘Bad Santa 2’ ultimately comes off as a sequel that is several years too late. Back then, it was fun and refreshing to watch chain-smoking, alcohol-guzzling, foul-mouthed Santas and their thieving elfs; but fast-forward to more than a decade later and that same irreverence just doesn’t have the same ‘kick’ anymore. Despite being responsible for the teen comedy classic ‘Mean Girls’, Mark Waters does not have the same anarchic sensibilities as Zwigoff, failing to give the string of episodic sketches enough narrative momentum to match the sheer ‘kamikaze-ness’ of the original. As much as this isn’t the cinematic equivalent of receiving lumps of coal, this sequel is no candy too, so don’t expect to find much joy, mirth or heart if you’re calling on this Santa to fill up your Christmas stocking.
(Still as coarse, vulgar and potentially offensive, this belated sequel that is too content to follow in its predecessor's footsteps nonetheless lacks the original's anarchic comic edge and ingenuity)
Review by Gabriel Chong