12 Days of Christmas Films Day 1: Bad Santa 2

“You reek of whiskey. You know the rules and you’re flouting them…”

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The original Bad Santa was a surprise hit because it worked as the antithesis of all the saccharine family films that flood the market at Christmas time. It was also goddamn hilarious. Billy Bob Thornton was perfect as the archetypal Christmas anti hero and it may seem like this sequel is a little superfluous, coming, as it does, a full thirteen years after the original. There is definitely some truth in that…

Willie (Thornton) is recruited by his vertically challenged nemesis Marcus to complete one last job. Also in the mix are Willie’s disgusting mother, played with a mischievous enthusiasm by Kathy Bates, and Christina Hendricks as the face of the charity that Willie and Marcus hope to hit. Bates is an Oscar winning actress for a reason, but her character is so slapstick and crude that she actually takes away from the film rather than adds to it. Hendricks fares better in a multi-faceted role but the rest of the supporting cast struggle to break out from the constraints of their poorly written characters.

Also returning from the original is Brett Kelly as The Kid. He does well to lend some credibility to a ludicrous character and it is his relationship with Billy Bob Thornton’s Willie (stop laughing) that helps to ground the movie. Thornton seems even more beaten down and weathered here than he did in Bad Santa and indeed, the whole film is incredibly dark and unrelentingly grim, even when compared to the original. Doubling down doesn’t really work here however. If you are writing a sequel with the express aim to make it more whatever the original was, you are going to end up sacrificing quality and execution and that is exactly what happens in Bad Santa 2.

While it has its moments and I’m glad I gave it a chance, if you are looking for an antidote to the standard holiday film then stick with the original Bad Santa.