Bad Santa 2 Review
AN UNNECESSARY HOLIDAY SEQUEL
Back in 2003, Bad Santa, an R-rated raunchy comedy film, was released, delivering vulgarity and adult-comedy charm that clashes with the season of Christmas. In a nutshell, the film, which starred Billy Bob Thornton, Tony Cox, Lauren Graham, Brett Kelly, John Ritter, and Bernie Mac, centers around William T. Sokes, a wise-cracking and washed-up Department Store Santa, and how he teams up with “little” helper, Marcus, to rob department stores on Christmas, eventually running into problems when Stokes befriends a troubled kid. It wasn’t exactly original nor clever, but Bad Santa was what moviegoers wanted to see, cultivating a modest sum at the box office (76.5 million against its 23 million production budget) and create a somewhat “cult following” on its home release. Now, almost 13 years since Bad Santa was released, Miramax and director Mark Waters see the return of Willie Soke in the sequel Bad Santa 2. Does this belated comedy continuation worth a glance or is it time to retire Soke’s foul-mouthed Santa outfit?
After the events of the first film, Willie Soke (Billy Bob Thornton) is just “going through the motions” of his miserable life, picking handful of unsatisfying jobs where he usually quits in a drunken rage. Unmotivated and hitting rock bottom, Willie plans to “off” himself when his old partner Marcus Skidmore (Tony Cox) reaches out with a peace offering and a job offer for Willie, which involves a plan to rob a Chicago charity organization that hosts a large amount of donated cash for the holidays. With the plan involving safecracking finesse, Willie agrees, saying goodbye (and good riddance) to the persistent man child, Thurman Merman (Brett Kelly), who’s now a sandwich shop employee. Venturing and setting up in Chicago, Willie is confronted by Sunny Soke (Kathy Bates), his mother, who’s the mastermind behind the heist, but is too sick to do it on her own and is in need of outside help to pull the crime. Distraught by Sunny’s cherry abuse (past and present), Tony’s pressure, and Thurman’s sudden reappearance in Chicago, Willie dons the red Santa outfit once again, but struggles to focus on the task at hand, distracted by the alluring appeal of the Charity’s co-founder, Diane (Christina Hendricks).
THE GOOD / THE BAD
I do remember seeing Bad Santa when it came out (not in theaters, but on home release) and found it to be okay. Yes, I laughed at some of its jokes, gags, and comedic scenarios, but (to me) the movie was just okay, a bit atypical of raunchy comedy movies that came out around this year (just mixed with a bit Christmas spirit). All in all, it was okay movie that had some laughs, but it was just a one and done film. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case as 2016 sees the return of Willi Sokes in the new sequel Bad Santa 2. I’ll admit that the trailers for the film are funny and somewhat peaked my interest to see the movie, but I wasn’t expecting anything grand. So…. after seeing the movie, my thoughts are about the same (maybe a bit lower) as Bad Santa 2 is an uninspiring sequel that retreads a lot of familiar terrain that coupled with a thinly-written script and weak characters.
Bad Santa 2 is directed by Mark Waters, who previously directed such films as Mean Girls, The Spiderwick Chronicles and Freaky Friday. Thus, for his past experiences, Waters seems to know how to stage comedy gags and scenarios and does in this film, playing up laughable moments aplenty (albeit crass, crude, and low-brow that’s in the same taste as the first film’s humor). While the story of Willie, Marcus, and Sunny (and then adding Thurman into the mix) is the main focus on the movie, the Christmas spirit is in the movie’s backdrop setting, weaving in and out through scenes. Whether Christmas decorations, famous holiday songs being played, or some seasonal holiday meaning, the yuletide spirit is still present in the movie.
However, the biggest problem with Bad Santa 2 is the movie itself. What I mean is Bad Santa, while a somewhat success from fans and some critics, didn’t really cry out for a sequel, which makes this film (Bad Santa 2) generally superfluous. Adding on to that is the fact that this movie joins the rest of 2016’s belated sequels that really didn’t need to be made. Because of this (a 13-year gap between the first film and this movie), the overall popularity to Bad Santa seems to have diminish, making Bad Santa 2 an unnecessary sequel that’s (like other 2016 films in this category) are “too little, too late”. There’s also the film’s script, which is penned by Johnny Rosenthal and Shauna Cross. The main plot itself seems a bit “underwhelming” and somewhat feels like it’s was recycled from the first film. There’s also several side storylines that really don’t go anywhere besides for comedy laughs, which includes several new characters (more on that below). While comedy in the film is probably the highlight of the feature, when the movie tires to find warmth and heart, it fails, feeling clunky and forced. In short, Bad Santa did warrant a sequel, but we get in Bad Santa 2, messy and haphazard sequel that retreads the first movie rather than expanding upon it.
From the get-go, Billy Bob Thornton is clearly the star in Bad Santa 2, easily sliding back into the role that (like the first movie) was born to play with effortless ease. Like before, Thornton’s dry, monotone voice and unanimated facial expressions make the character of Willie hilarious to watch, spewing one crass line after the next. However, as a whole, Thornton’s Willie is pretty much the same things as in previous film (i.e. crude and rude, but plays the holiday “Scrooge” archetype that finds something “new” by the film’s end). In short, while it isn’t anything new or original, Thornton’s Willie Soke is (undoubtedly) the strongest piece of Band Santa 2.
Additionally, two actors from the first film return to their reprise their character in this comedy sequel. First, there is Tony Cox, who returns as the crass foul-mouthed character Marcus. As I said with Thornton’s character, Cox doesn’t bring anything new or “fresh” in his reprisal of Marcus, but Cox and Thornton’s chemistry of their raunchy insults and bickering is great and fun to watch the pair together again. The second character is Thurman Merman, who is played by Bret Kelly (the same kid who played him in the first film). While Cox’s Marcus is somewhat played in the central narrative of Bad Santa 2, the inclusion of Kelly’s Thurman just feels like it was continuity reason to connect to the first film. Though he brings a somewhat emotional heart and Christmas spirit in this naïve characters (and in the movie) as well as some funny moments, he just seems unnecessary and a bit forced.
As one of big addition to the sequel is actress Kathy Bates, who plays Willie’s mom Sunny. Of all the newcomer to the film, Bates gets the most screen-time and plays a larger role than the rest of them. The character is just as mean-spirited as Willie, so both Bates and Thornton have some good banter with each other. However, her character is written a stereotypical manner (borderline clichéd) and there’s really no surprises to the role Sunny (in both story and comedy bits). Thankfully, Bates fully commits to the part, but she’s more of caricature than a fully-rounded character and, just like I said in the paragraph above, any attempt to flesh out her mother / son relationship with Willie is thinly written and never fully realized beyond its presentation.
The rest of the new addition cast are, more or less, there for plot / comedy devices rather than supporting players to the story. This includes Christina Hendricks and Ryan Hansen as the charity co-founders (wife / husband) Diane and Regent Hastings, Jenny Zigrino as the security guard Gina De Luca, and Cristina Rosato’s Alice (she’s barely in the movie). While I don’t question these four acting talents, but they aren’t given much to do beyond furthering the narrative or give R-rated adult comedy moments.
Tis the season for the Christmas cheer and holiday spirit and the raunchy comedy humor returns in the sequel film Bad Santa 2. Director Mark Waters’s holiday comedy finds its groove with its plethora adult humor that’s mixed with Christmas yuletide nuances. However, while there’s a touch of holiday sentimentally in the movie, it just seems clunky and forced that’s couple with a thinly-written story and forgettable subplots. Personally, the film was just okay. Some of the jokes were funny and Thornton was great in it, but the script was weak and so was many of the characters (both new and old). If you liked the first film or a fan of R-rated adult comedies, there might be some for you to like in this holiday sequel. However, it’s not worth seeing in theaters and probably best seeing as a rental or just skipping it altogether. As it stands, Bad Santa 2, whether you like or not, is another prime example of 2016’s belated movie sequels that tries to capture its predecessor’s magic, but ultimately ends up short and complete unnecessary.
2.6 Out of 5 (Rent It / Skip It)
Released On: November 23rd, 2016
Reviewed On: December 6th, 2016
Bad Santa 2 is rated R for crude sexual content and language throughout, and some graphic nudity