92 min. | R
This bad sequel is vile, unfunny and does little to build on the hilarious 2003 Bad Santa original. It plays like another Hollywood cash grab.
Wait a minute, you’re thinking: The first movie was vile and offensive and it was great! Director Terry Zwigoff’s Bad Santa was uniquely subversive while somehow channeling the spirit of Christmas. We didn’t necessarily like Willie (Billy Bob Thornton) and Marcus (Tony Cox) as they plotted to steal from a shopping mall, but we pitied them enough to laugh at their brazen vulgarity. Because we laughed so much at the inappropriateness, many of us loved the movie.
Director Mark Waters (Mean Girls) tries but fails to capture that spirit in Bad Santa 2. It all feels forced and tiring from the opening. This time Willie and Marcus are plotting to steal $2 million from a charity. They team up with Willie’s mom (Kathy Bates), whom he hates, and must work around a stuffy security guard and his boss, Regent, whose wife takes an odd liking to Willie.
Reports say actor Brett Kelly gained 40 pounds so he could return as Thurman Merman, a character he originated as a kid in the 2003 film. You can’t help but ask why. Plenty of chubby kids grow up to be healthy-weight adults. He wasn’t likeable because he was heavy, he was likeable because he was sweet and innocent and you pitied him.
But the biggest problem with Thurman is that he’s inexplicably loyal to Willie no matter what Willie does or says. When Thurman was a kid in the original, this made sense as a story device. Now he’s an adult and still acts like he’s eight. He’s mentally slow, but not so slow that he can’t see Willie wants nothing to do with him. Thurman serves no real purpose to the narrative so you have to wonder why he’s here at all.
The script also goes out of its way to ridicule little person Marcus. Not only do Willie and Sunny offer up one wise crack after the next, but he’s laughed at and deemed un-dateable by another character. As a plot point, we don’t need Marcus constantly being demeaned, and the credits take it a disgusting step further.
If you fond memories of the foul indecency of Bad Santa, do not waste your money on Bad Santa 2. It will taint every conversation about the original with, “Yeah, too bad the second one sucked.” Leave well enough alone.