The original Bad Santa was mean-spirited, politically incorrect, and virtually everything a Christmas movie shouldn’t be. With that said, it was also one of the best anti-Christmas movies ever made, not to mention one of the funniest comedies of the past decade and a half. Like its predecessor, Bad Santa 2 is vulgar, insensitive, and at times even heartless. Where the first film was naughty in all the right ways, though, this sequel is naughty in all the wrong ways. The biggest offensive is that it’s basically the same movie over again. The only difference is that it’s thirteen years later.
Like its predecessor, Bad Santa 2 is vulgar, insensitive, and at times even heartless. Where the first film was naughty in all the right ways, though, this sequel is naughty in all the wrong ways.
Billy Bob Thornton redefined his career as Willie T. Stokes, a lowlife alcoholic who makes a living dressing up as Santa Claus and robbing malls. He’s essentially been playing the same character in every movie since then, from Bad News Bears, to School for Scoundrels, to Mr. Woodcock. While he’s certainty not stretching his acting muscles in Bad Santa 2, he still plays the role well. Willie is every bit as pathetic as you remember him. As a matter of fact, he tries to commit suicide within the first several minutes. Willie decides to live another day, however, when he gets a visit from his old friend Marcus (Tony Cox).
Fresh out of prison, Marcus recruits Willie to rob a Christmas charity that’s supposedly raised $2 million. This charity apparently doesn’t believe in thorough background checks, as Willie and Marcus sign up as volunteers with no trouble. Their partner in crime is Willie’s despicable mother, played by Kathy Bates. To her credit, Bates is the one element of this sequel that at least injects something different. It’s interesting seeing how Willie was raised and why he turned into such a bad seed. Other than that, the plot is totally recycled with nothing new to offer. Along the way, we get lots of gross-out jokes, lots of offensive jokes, and occasionally even a funny joke.
Brett Kelly is also back as the chubby Thurman Merman, who’s all grown up now. At times it’s fun watching the overly optimistic Thurman clash with the relentlessly cynical Willie. In the long run, though, Thurman doesn’t add much to the plot this time around. The same can be said about Christina Hendricks’ Diane, the woman who runs the charity Willie intends to rob. She really serves no purpose outside of being Willie’s inexplicable love interest, a position that was previously held by Lauren Graham. Where Graham had a few classic lines, however, Hendricks is completely wasted as a throwaway character.
Every once in a while we get an overdue sequel that makes a genuine effort to compete with the original, such as Anchorman 2 or Finding Dory. Bad Santa 2 is unfortunately more along the lines of Zoolander 2 and My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2. It’s a follow-up that had over a decade to find the perfect script, but instead settled for a lazy cash grab. What makes it even more disappointing is that the director is Mark Waters, who started out strong with Mean Girls and the remake of Freaky Friday. Then he seemingly gave up with movies like Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, Mr. Popper’s Penguins, and now this.
Bad Santa 2 is unfortunately more along the lines of Zoolander 2 and My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2.
Throughout Bad Santa 2, Willie keeps talking about happy endings. The original Bad Santa didn’t exactly have a happy ending, but it did find just the right balance of being mean and bittersweet. It was the perfect way to send these characters off. This film just feels like a pointless epilogue that adds nothing to the equation. By the time the grotesque credits roll, we don’t care if there’s a happy ending or a sad ending. We’re just glad it’s over.