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Review: Bad Santa 2 (2016)

Bad Santa 2 (2016)

Directed by: Mark Waters

Premise: A sequel to the 2003 film. Alcoholic safe cracker Willie Soke (Billy Bob Thornton) reunites with his partner Marcus (Tony Cox) and his mother (Kathy Bates) to rob the coffers of a children’s charity on Christmas Eve.

What Works: There is an entire brand of comedy—and of filmmaking in general—that’s all about violating social norms and being deliberately rude. Movies like The Human Centipede 2, Pink Flamingos, and Bloodsucking Freaks are disgusting for its own sake, have no interest in making a statement, and exist for the sole purpose of trolling the audience. Bad Santa 2 is one of those movies. Its intent is to be lewd and offensive and it does that.

What Doesn’t: The year 2016 has had an overwhelming amount of sequels, a few of them good, others mediocre, and several that are terrible. Bad Santa 2 belongs in the latter category. This is the kind of unnecessary sequel that exists only for the purpose of exploiting a recognizable title. 2003’s Bad Santa was a self-contained story; the film brought its characters to a conclusion and there was nowhere left to go. That’s painfully obvious in Bad Santa 2. This sequel begins by literally urinating on the finale of the original picture; when we last heard from Willie Soke at the end of the first film he had turned a corner, formed friendships, and was on the road to recovery from substance abuse. Bad Santa 2 discards all of that progress and resets the character to the mess he was at the beginning of the original movie. There’s no reason for it except as an excuse to make another movie and Bad Santa 2 is mostly the same material all over again. But it doesn’t make any sense now. In the first movie, Marcus put up with Willie’s bad behavior because he needed Willie’s safe cracking skills but in the end Marcus turned on Willie and tried to kill him. In the sequel they’re back together but there’s no way to get passed that history and the filmmakers don’t really try. Instead it’s back to the same behaviors, ending in the same results. Bad Santa 2 superficially repeats the premise of the original picture but goes about it louder, lewder, and lazier. Billy Bob Thornton reprises the title role and he frequently looks bored. He and rest of the cast make racist, homophobic, and sexist jokes and there’s plenty of gross out gags and sexual shenanigans but there’s nothing really audacious about it. Rather than being taboo, Bad Santa 2 is just cringe inducing and it’s not funny. The sequel also returns Brett Kelly as Thurman. Much like the rest of this film, Thurman has aged but he is still the same character he was thirteen years ago. And that’s the most peculiar thing about Bad Santa 2. The filmmakers clearly set out to remake the original film but it’s just as obvious that they didn’t understand why it worked. The original Bad Santa had a crass sense of humor but it didn’t glorify the character. Willie Soke is a sad and pathetic human being. The original movie recognized that and it succeeded because of a delicate mix of vulgarity and humanity. And in that way, the original Bad Santa was a better Christmas film than so many other disingenuously saccharine holiday pictures. Shining through its obscenity and cynicism was an authentic glimmer of kindness and hope. That’s what made the original Bad Santa so great and it is exactly what’s missing from the sequel. This film is just mean spirited. It has some creatively vulgar insults but there isn’t anything more to it than that. There’s certainly no point of empathy here. The only point of pity in Bad Santa 2 is the supporting actors trapped in this thing. It’s disheartening and disappointing to see such talented performers as Octavia Spencer (reprising her role from the first film), Christina Hendricks, and Kathy Bates waste their talent on such a lazy and misogynistic mess.

Bottom Line: Bad Santa 2 ought to be added into the canon of worst sequels of all time alongside titles like Exorcist II: The Heretic and Superman III. It is a lazy reiteration of the 2003 film that is crass without being funny. But perhaps worst of all, Bad Santa 2 shows utter contempt for the audience and the legacy of the original.

Episode: #625 (December 11, 2016)