Bad Santa 2 (2016)
Bad Santa 2 (2016)

Genre: Crime Comedy Running Time: 1 hr. 32 min.

Release Date: November 23rd, 2016 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Mark Waters Actors: Billy Bob Thornton, Kathy Bates, Tony Cox, Christina Hendricks, Brett Kelly, Ryan Hansen, Jenny Zigrino, Jeff Skowron, Cristina Rosato, Mike Starr, Octavia Spencer, Selah Victor

 


 

A

fter a brief incline in his admittedly wretched life, Willie Soke (Billy Bob Thornton) has again reached rock bottom. When his only true friend, Thurman Merman (Brett Kelly), interrupts Willie’s suicide attempt to let him know that he’s received a letter and some cash from his old cohort Marcus Skidmore (Tony Cox), the irritable ex-bank robber heads to Chicago for one final job. Once there, the unsuspecting drunkard must team up with an estranged relative from his past in order to relieve a crooked charity of $2 million – but it’s not long before the degenerate former mall Santa dons the iconic red cap and embraces his proclivities for deviance and crime.

The film starts with an ounce of clever misdirection, with images of a nice car (but Willie’s just the valet) and a Santa hat (yet he’s a mere janitor who just so happens to have one perched on his head), but then it becomes apparent that the dejected protagonist is still stuck in Arizona at a dead-end job, and still requires a bounty of booze to make it through each day. He’s also still creatively – but ineffectively – suicidal. And yet, his staggering ineptitude with just about every task turns his failed suicide attempts into obvious nonaccomplishments, and his state of maintaining an apartment and continuing to acquire employment components of inexplicable achievement. If this character was even remotely realistic, he’d be homeless.

“Merry Christmas. Yeah, whatever.” As a familiarly contemptible person doing bad things for all the wrong reasons, Willie is perpetually unable to muster much sympathy. Here, he’s rejoined by his untrusty partner and a new accomplice, his despicable, embarrassing mother (Kathy Bates), generating conversations and actions that compete to be more vulgar and more disagreeable than before. A different fling also affiliates with Willie and his negativity, though Christina Hendricks’ romantic interest is almost as unappealing as the Soke clan. Rather than the cute, nostalgic fetishes of Lauren Graham’s Sue, Diane wants to rebel against her loveless union and revisit the wild, dirty side of herself, which respectable associates prevent from surfacing. With so many revolting personas, it’s no wonder that farfetched or nonexistent resolutions have little impact on Willie’s life and the world around him. There’s only so much meanness that can be digested before the whole endeavor grows utterly soulless.

In an unexpected coup, the filmmakers have brought back Thurman, though he’s given few opportunities to expand upon the relationship established in the previous misadventure. He’s still reserved solely as a moral compass for Willie, who struggles endlessly with trying to do the most selfish, treacherous things imaginable. And, Octavia Spencer returns to reprise her bit-part as a hooker, donning the same wig and attire and commenting on the same activities as she did back in 2003 – which is a welcome yet unusual inclusion, especially considering her current, busy schedule.

Though those nods are momentarily worthwhile, the extreme repetition that the screenwriters resort to for the rest of the time is dull at best. And a bevy of supporting roles provide almost no real laughs, despite the fact that they’re added solely for comic relief (Ryan Hansen as a cheating spouse, Jenny Zigrino as the key-keeper, and Jeff Skowron as a security chief). There’s only so much cursing, drinking, insult-slinging, and sexual-conquest-toiling one can watch before none of it is amusing. Even some of the soundtrack is duplicated from the previous picture. If the original “Bad Santa” was provocative in its raunchiness and anarchical sensibilities, this sequel is all recycled jokes and repeated confirmations that there are no fresh tales to tell with these static characters. For the most part, it’s just not funny.

– The Massie Twins

  • 3/10