‘Tis the season so the say. The most wonderful time of the year, when peace, joy and goodwill to all prevail. If you’re the type of person who likes to get into the festive spirit by indulging in a warm and fuzzy Christmas film (Santa Claus The Movie or It’s A Wonderful Life perhaps), then stop reading now. Bad Santa 2 definitely isn’t the solution for you. Like the sublime original, this sequel is the anti-Christmas; a relentlessly vulgar, expletive ridden assault on the senses. Billy Bob Thornton reprises his role as Willie Soke, the depraved, safe cracking, Santa Claus impersonator who makes Ebeneezer Scrooge look like the Messiah. While there’s certainly plenty of guilty pleasure to be derived from the film, this is another sequel which basically retreads the plot and comedic sensibilities of it’s superior predecessor. There’s nothing particularly new brought to the table so the shocking disregard for political correctness and crude shenanigans which made such an impact first time around are nowhere near as effective in this instalment.
When we catch up with Willie, very little has changed. He’s the same drunk, depressive, sex obsessed bum, living in squalor and abject misery. He is still being hero worshipped by Thurman Merman (Brett Kelly), who is now 21 but as hilariously docile as the kid in the first film. When his former partner and vertically challenged nemesis Marcus Skidmore (Tony Cox) shows up with a job offer, Willie reluctantly heads to Chicago with the promise of a big score. Once there, he discovers that his long estranged mother (Kathy Bates) is in on the job. This makes him even more resistant to get involved. There’s no love lost between this mother and son, but desperation drives him along. Willie soon finds himself donning the Santa suit as the trio of crooks infiltrate the charity that they are aiming to rob.
The absence of the original director (Terry Zwigoff) and screenwriters (Glenn Ficarra & John Requa) is telling. The sequel’s script is derivative and direction from Mark Waters (Freaky Friday, Mean Girls) lacks any real flare or inspiration. That’s not to say that the film is without it’s merits. There’s still some irresistible comedy and enough bilious venom in the dialogue to keep the momentum going. The original cast do a fine job in revisiting their roles. The dynamic may not be as fresh this time around but there are some tremendous moments with Willie’s attempt to assist Thurman lose his virginity being a notable highlight. There are a couple of noteworthy female additions to the cast which add an extra layer of quality also. Kathy Bates appears to be having a ball in her devilishly nasty role and Christina Hendricks is great as Willie’s unlikely love interest. So while the ingredients combine together well, the story beats are just too close to the first film for this to qualify as a truly worthwhile enterprise.
Fans of the original and anyone looking for an antidote to the usual sugary and sentimental Christmas fare will find plenty to enjoy by seeing Bad Santa 2 this festive season. It’s just a pity that the lack of inventiveness and fresh ideas make this sporadically hilarious and entertaining sequel feel somewhat lacklustre and unnecessary.