By Linda Marric @Linda_Marric
Thirteen years after the original, we finally have a sequel for Terry Zwigoff‘s Bad Santa. Directed by Mark Waters, Bad Santa 2 is every bit as mean and nasty as the original. Billie Bob Thornton reprises his role as Willie, the lazy, drunk, sex obsessed petty criminal, who we now find in a suicidal state, living a wretched existence with very little prospect. Willie is called upon by his old partner in crime Marcus (Tony Cox) who has an idea for a heist in Chicago and is in need of an expert safecracker. Also returning to the cast is the excellent Brett Kelly as Thurman who at 21 is an overgrown child who sees Willie as a father figure. After arriving in Chicago, Willie discovers that the brain behind the heist is his estranged mother Sunny (Kathy Bates) who is every bit as vile and duplicitous as her son, only worse. Bates puts in a brilliantly anarchic performance, a sort of “badder Santa” to Willie who is mellowing with age. Also worth mentioning a turn by Christina Hendricks as Willie’s love interest and the prime victim of the heist. Hendricks is sadly given very little to work with, with the script resorting to cheap jokes about her physical attributes and failing to capitalise on her impeccable comic timing.
Despite laugh-out-loud gross-out moments, Bad Santa 2 falls at the first hurdle by punching down rather than up. Unfortunately for its makers, the film could not have come at a worse time. The 2003 movie was a refreshing antidote to saccharine holiday romantic comedies, which went on to win high praises for going against the grain of a PC consensus. The same cannot be said about a sequel released in the same month which sees political incorrectness and the politics of hate and division back in the driving seat. This is in no way the fault of its makers, but where Bad Santa succeeded at ribbing the goody two-shoes nature of the new millennium, Bad Santa 2 just seems nasty, unkind and unnecessarily crass.
Thornton’s delivery as a man who has very little faith in humanity is faultless, and it would be dishonest to pretend that the film isn’t full to the brim with hilarious moments. However, the joke starts to wear thin after a while and all we’re left with is a soulless film which I’m sure will find its audience amongst those who loved the first one and looking for more of the same.
Bad Santa 2 is on general release in cinemas from Wednesday 23rd November.