This holiday season, why not distract yourself from all the seething hate around you with more hate on screen? Admittedly, Terry Zwigoff’s Bad Santa is a raucous Christmas comedy that jingles my bells – but Bad Santa 2 is downright despicable. Mean-spirited, perverse and emptier than an alcoholic’s three-day-old vodka bottle. Zwigoff’s original film works a tight ensemble comedy angle, but Mark Waters’ second coming is worse than any family’s most inebriated member (even sicker than Brian Posehn’s Uncle Nick).
Imagine your drunk Uncle. Now imagine him puking on the dinner table, putting out his cigarette in the bile and then proceeding to fuck whatever cooked bird was served – in front of everyone, while laughing. Bad Santa 2 is the equivalent of that unstable mess, never living up to the sinful sentiments of 2003’s first mall-Santa heist.
Billy Bob Thorton is back once again as Willie Soke, a selfish ex-criminal whose description would make a nun blush. Willie lives to suck down bottles of hooch and score an occasional lay, but even that freedom grows old. With no salvation in sight, Willie dangles himself from a homemade noose, only to be interrupted by a grown-up Thurman Merman (Brett Kelly). The jolly 21-year-old brings a gift from Marcus (Tony Cox) in the form of cash, a phone and a job. Willie calls off his suicide and finds himself in Chicago, ready to rob a Salvation Army lookalike charity of their profits, but there’s one hitch – Willie has to work with his tattooed mother, Sunny (Kathy Bates).
Aw, what’s sweeter than a sweet old biker mama continually referring to her son as “Shitstick?” You know, because Willie tried to “butf#*k anything as a child” – a story that Sunny tells in depth to a random stranger because potty humor is funny! Especially when it’s coming from Kathy Bates! I mean, I can’t really argue that notion, but when every story becomes just another reason to say the word “jizz” or “snatch,” attempted shocks lose their comedic value. I get that Bad Santa 2 attempts to redefine parental bonds by having Willie and Sunny commit robberies together and talk about explicit sexual acts, but Johnny Rosenthal and Shauna Cross’ script is incredibly one-note (the brown note, at that). Drink, puke, fornicate, repeat. It’s comedy of the highest brow (sarcasm detected), never pulling itself from a cesspool mentality.
Every character arc is motivated by one thing – sex. That’s all anybody cares about. Willie dips his candy can into any cup of hot chocolate he can find, be it to satiate Diane’s dirty side (the charity runner played by Christina Hendricks) or to steal keys from security guard Gina (Jenny Zigrino). Of course, Diane’s finance-obsessed husband is a cheater (played by the forever typecasted douche-bro Ryan Hansen), while Marcus tries his own luck with Gina and Sunny steals other people’s sex toys for herself.
Sexual exploitation becomes the only source of Bad Santa 2‘s humorous intent, but when you make a raunchy comedy, you’ve got to deliver, right? That’s why Diane decides out of the blue that some asshole rent-a-Santa should pound her doggy style behind a dumpster, even if there’s absolutely no sense involved. We’ve seen the whole “F&@k me Santa!” gag already, but why not re-purpose it in a tree farm for shits and giggles? Because we’ve seen it already. Rhetorical question.
Willie was always a bastard, but Bad Santa 2 doesn’t build towards redemption like Bad Santa is able to do. When Thurman randomly appears in Chicago, we already know he’ll play a heavy part in helping Willie find the family he deserves (Thorton and Kelly do show the strongest chemistry). That’s expected. It’s the lead-up to Willie’s Christmas transformation that wades through rank shittiness, as characters pass the time by slinging insults like some constant verbal cock-measuring contest.
Sunny focuses most her attention on Marcus’ size, while Willie keeps his familiar un-PC dialogue offensive towards any parties. Will you laugh at some morally degrading zingers? Here and there – but the joke success ratio is much more lopsided this time around. There’s no ambition past finding a way to show people jerking off (I’m talking multiple times), even resorting to a rising-boner-under-clothes gag.
I mean, dirty is funny. That’s not the failure here. It’s more that Bad Santa 2 does nothing to further a piss-stained formula despite adding familial depth to Willie’s backstory, which results in the film taking two steps backwards in terms of pitch-black comedic depravity. Characters spend so much time not giving a shit that we ultimately stop giving a shit about them ourselves. How many times can we witness Willie berate Thurman’s mental immaturity while still mustering a giggle? Or puke on the street? Or have meaningless sex with yet another stunner? Or curse out the world? Willie Soke is an asshole, but we already knew that. His sequel is just more inappropriate shit-slinging with half the off-color yuletide heart. Piss on me once, and maybe I’ll like it (Bad Santa). Piss on me twice? Well, apparently that’s my limit.
Bad Santa 2 is the same holiday depravity with half the enthusiasm, too drunk on its own despicable tone.