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Bad Santa 2 – Movie Review

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Bad Santa 2 – Movie Review

Rating: B- (Okay)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy eOne Films

Terry Zwigoff’s Bad Santa was a refreshing diversion from the schmaltzy Christmas films every year. While it reveled in crudeness, it fit its characters and their arc and the times it did go for sentiment were effective and felt earned. While Bad Santa 2 does retread the same ground and certainly suffers from a bit of Sequelitis, it remains mildly amusing in its depiction of Willie’s escapade and the ribald humour is still there. Director Mark Waters knows not to make the story outstay its welcome and makes sure there is even a tiny bit of character development. It is mostly an excuse for Billy Bob Thornton to act in a drunken stupor in a Santa suit again.

Willie may have softened at the end of Bad Santa from his experience with Thurman Merman, but to justify the sequel’s existence, they have him back to his old ways. The plot goes through a lot of the expected beats as he learns to have a heart again. The addition of his even more un-politically correct mother spices some things up a bit, though Kathy Bates does feel like she’s on auto-pilot through most of the film. The script seems to go back and forth and is almost uncertain of how much we’re meant to sympathise with her. Even Bad Santa 2 acknowledges the only reason Tony Cox’s Marcus is there is so everyone else can make little person jokes.

Lauren Graham, likely busy filming the Gilmore Girls revival, is absent from the sequel and the script removes her character in expected lewd fashion. In her place is Christina Hendricks, who is not given much of a personality to play with and mostly exists to fulfill Willie’s sexual desires. Jeff Skowron fills the role of a suspicious security guard and gets some chuckles out of his oddball authoritarian figure. Brett Kelly comfortably slips back into the role of Merman, maintaining that wide-eyed innocence and admiration for Willie with his journey to see him in Chicago providing some amusement and there’s a solid little arc written for him.

Some of the more successful gags tend to be retreads of jokes from the first film. Willie’s annoyance at the children who sit on his lap is the funniest sequence in Bad Santa 2, even if this is territory we have seen before. It’s one of the few scenes where the comedy does not merely rely on shock humour to gain laughs. Most of the script’s humour does and that most affects the first half hour. One also wishes for Terry Zwigoff’s directorial styling as Mark Waters takes a fairly simple and sitcom approach to directing the sequel. The script frequently goes for easy jokes in depicting Willie’s R-rated antics.

Bad Santa 2 does not exist to take the character in new directions or develop him or even satirise the Christmas season. The plot is merely here to get Willie to do dirty things. While most of the gags are obvious, there are enough decent bits to produce sufficient laughter. Just not enough to hide the flaws or make one forget how by-the-numbers this sequel is. However, Thornton does not coast in the role and understands how much responsibility lies on him to drive much of the picture. Bad Santa 2 is the sort of film one will most likely catch on Netflix the following year, while still trying to get over an eggnog hangover. That might be the most appropriate way to watch it.


Stefan Ellison

Stefan Ellison