By Thomas Simpson
‘Tis the season once again and it’s time for all the old Christmas classics to be dusted off. While movies such as It’s A Wonderful Life and Die Hard will always have a place at this time of year, there’s always room for something new to fill the stocking. Of course, there’s a reason some films stand the test of time whereas Bad Santa 2 will be lucky if it’s still in cinemas come Christmas.
The first Bad Santa was released in 2003 to generally favorable reviews, praised for its dark wit and offensive humor, it was a refreshing comedy for the festive season. It took 13 years for a sequel to be released and halfway through watching you’ll wonder why they bothered.
Willie (Billy Bob Thornton) hasn’t got a grip on his life and finds himself living alone in squalor. A botched suicide attempt turns out to be a silver lining as his old partner and enemy Marcus (Tony Cox) has a big score lined up that will make them both rich. Neither man seems averse to ripping off a charity, however Willie does have reservations about teaming up with his mother (Kathy Bates). Still, money is thicker than blood so let the festivities begin.
For those that didn’t bother with the first film, the opening five minutes will pretty much determine if this film is for you. The jokes are crass and come quick and easy even if you know that laughing at them will send you to hell. The problem is that the script quickly runs out of gas before the midway point. The same jokes start being repeated and what was once offensive becomes increasingly dull. There are attempts to inject some sentimentally while we reach a predictable conclusion but the payoff never feels earned, instead the journey is pedestrian at best.
Credit to the cast as Thornton, Bates and Cox do the best with the material they’re given. They have a naturally great chemistry but their talents can only be stretched so far with Bates’s horrible mother routine having worn thin way too early. Christina Hendricks and Ryan Regent are forced into the script with two dimensional characters complete with a clichéd backstory that add nothing to the plot or humor.
Brett Kelly returns as Thurman Merman and although he’s all grown up he remains one of the more interesting characters onscreen. His doe eyed innocent man-child demeanor is amusing and helps add some heart to the story even if it isn’t fully utilized.
Bad Santa 2 is more Bland Santa and is more likely to bore audiences than offend them with asinine humor. It’s a lazy sequel that could have easily went straight to VOD but instead finds itself with a cinema release. Stick with the classics for now.
Thomas Simpson is a writer and filmmaker based in Glasgow, U.K. Find him on Twitter: @Simmy41.