‘Bad Santa 2’: ‘Tis the Season for Lazy Comedy Retreads

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Bad Santa 2

13 years ago, before there was an entire genre of comedy of innocuous entities with the prefix Bad or Dirty added to them, Bad Santa came along and surprised everyone with its raucous sense of depraved humor that also featured a bit of heart between the acerbic insults and general debauchery. In the time since, Bad Santa has endured as a Christmas time classic, an It’s a Wonderful Life with alcoholism and anal sex at the center. Eventually, as seems to happen with so many cult comedies these days, it is now time for a long overdue sequel with Bad Santa 2, which once again places Billy Bob Thornton is a dingy Santa suit as Willie Soke, a thief, alcoholic, and all around ne’er do well. As happens with so many comedy sequels, Bad Santa 2 is just a retelling of the first joke with nothing new in the slightest as it hits the same exact beats as its predecessor over its 90-minute running time.

Since we last saw Willie, not much has really changed. He’s a drunken wreck whose misanthropy seeps through his pores like the cheap vodka he liberally imbibes. So broke that he can’t even afford pay-per-view pornography, Willie decides to take his own life when he’s interrupted by Thurman Merman (Brett Kelly), the kindhearted and lovable doofus from the first film all grown up. He brings a mysterious package sent to Willie containing cash, sent from his former partner turned nemesis Marcus (Tony Cox). It was intended as an act of good faith from Marcus, who betrayed Willie at the conclusion of the first film. Marcus has the lead on a new heist that will set them up for life, robbing a charity in Chicago run by Diane Hastings (Christina Hendricks), a kindly philanthropist running her charity with her douche bag husband Regent (Ryan Hansen). On the inside of the charity is Sunny (Kathy Bates), Willie’s estranged mother who is putting the disguise of a kindly old woman in order to gain and betray the trust of the charity to line her pockets with their donations. Reluctantly, Willie agrees to work with two of his least favorite people in the world.

The sole virtue of Bad Santa 2 are the performances from its returning actors. Billy Bob Thornton revels in the profane insults that Willie dispense with the same ease as most people breathe. The deadpan delivery of Brett Kelly as the massive man-child gets the most consistent laughs throughout. But whether it’s the gruff, cynical performance of Thornton or the exceedingly game Kathy Bates, every solid performance is undone by an unimaginative script by Johnny Rosenthal and Shauna Cross. Every joke is a watered down version of the jokes from 13 years ago, and often the only reason they’re able to garner even the lightest of chuckles is the commitment from the actors. There are constantly situations where the lacking wit of the script are front and center, such as a scene where the audience is bombarded with numerous jokes about Tony Cox’s diminutive stature within a span of a couple of minutes.

Director Mark Waters seems to be sleepwalking through his duties, as nothing aside from a few musical cues seem to stand out. Bad Santa 2 also seems to be the victim of a number of edits to trim down its running time. A number of sequences come across as rushed or incomplete, like the bizarre romantic subplot between Willie and Diane. Just a few lines of ineffective dialogue are supposed to give us reason to believe that this sweet philanthropist is willing to have sex with an alcoholic in a Santa costume in a dingy alleyway by some dumpsters. Conversely, the dissatisfaction of Diane’s marriage and the shortcomings of her husband Regent are given minor lip service in this undercooked subplot.

Personally, I liked Bad Santa 2 a lot more the first time I saw it when it was just called Bad Santa. Mark Waters, certainly a competent director, lacks the same light touch that the original’s director, Terry Zwigoff, possesses in balancing the raunchy aspects with a genuine heart. There are a handful of effective scenes early in the going of Bad Santa 2 that are quickly obscured as the movie quickly finds itself nestled in the comfort zone of rehashing the past. The laughs are too few and far in between in Bad Santa 2 to make the naughty feel nice. Instead, it’s just a lazy attempt to cash in on that sweet, sweet nostalgia that’s all the rage without the burden of originality. Something this witless earns a whole lotta coal in the stocking, maybe even something worse.

Bad Santa 2
  • Overall Score


A lazy rehash of the original, Bad Santa 2 offers nothing more than weaker versions of the same jokes from 13 years ago despite the spirited performance of Billy Bob Thornton.

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