Bad Santa 2 review
Who remembers the 2003 black comedy Bad Santa? It was an interesting change of pace from your typical Christmas movie. Unlike It’s a Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street or Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas where the child teaches the adult the lesson and the season brings joy to the main character, Bad Santa took those clichés and turned them upside down. The child was naïve and Christmas made Santa cringe. While it isn’t the first dark Christmas movie, it made the idea of an alcoholic, high libido Santa more mainstream then it would have been before.
Most importantly, it made Billy Bob Thornton a big star who still acquires some big roles (most notably, his Golden Globe winning performance in the Fargo TV series). So like any successful movie, there tends to be talk of a sequel. But we had to wait thirteen years to hear where Santa would be after getting arrested. I’ll admit that also like a lot of the holiday classics, I wasn’t too sure if a continuation of Bad Santa was even justified. But it seems that 2016 is the year for sequels, so lets see if Bad Santa 2 can reach the same comedic heights of the original.
Willie Soke (played by Billy Bob Thornton) seems to have given up his life of crime. That doesn’t mean he’s turned over a new leaf. He’s been in and out of jobs and he’s still an alcoholic. In fact, if it weren’t for his now adult friend/surrogate son Thurman Merman (played by Brett Kelly), he would have killed himself years ago. Just as he’s contemplating committing suicide again, he gets a call from his former bandit partner, Marcus (played by Tony Cox). Marcus meets with Willie to apologize for trying to kill him before (see Bad Santa) and offers him a big heist in Chicago.
Willie agrees and finds out that he and Marcus will be robbing a charity on Christmas Eve. Part of this means two things; that Willie will have to put on the Santa suit once again and he’ll have to work with one of the employees on the inside, his mother Sunny Soke (played by Kathy Bates). The charity’s head Diane (played by Christina Hendricks) does her best to keep Willie’s constant drinking and swearing in line for the sake of the holiday. Will Willie once again learn the meaning of he season?
It’s clear that the same team from the original movie is not back. While Bad Santa was foul, it did have a twisted heart to it and a overall style that was almost Kubrick-like. Bad Santa 2 only seems interested in it’s foul humor and offering little to balance things out. The script doesn’t give its actors a lot to go off, either giving us much of the same or new elements that don’t seem to fit what Bad Santa was trying offer in a real world setting. Elements like fighting another Santa, a children’s choir, and a Santa convention feel too out of place.
Every actor, especially Kathy Bates, tries their hardest to work with this setup. I did laugh at a few moments, but they were rare. I think my issue is that given what happened in the end of the least movie, it’s really sad to see that little had changed for these characters. I shouldn’t expect Thornton’s character to be normal, but you’d think the experience he went through would have changed him a little bit. I’ll give this movie credit for trying to dwell deeper into this Santa’s backstory, but everything seems to be taken into the wrong direction.
I’ll give this two Christmas flasks out of five. This is strictly only for those that really want to know what happens next in the Bad Santa story. Otherwise, either stick to the original, or if you want better Christmas black comedies, try Gremlins, The Ref, or National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. I’d rather not spend another holiday with Willie Soke.