Review: Bad Santa 2 (2016)

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Bad Santa 2

Directed by Mark Waters

Dashing in to theaters more than a decade after its predecessor, Billy Bob Thornton and his motley merry band deliver another installment of unfiltered holiday comedy that manages to match and occasionally outshine the original.

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Opening in Arizona with Willie Soke (Billy Bob Thornton) mired in a myriad of dead end jobs and continuing cycle of self-abuse, the locale quickly shifts from sun baked streets to the winter wonderland of Chicago with Marcus (Tony Cox) offering a retirement level score as a way to make amends with Willie. They are joined in this Christmas time criminal enterprise by Sunny (Kathy Bates) who is not only the meanest Mrs. Claus you’re likely to meet; she’s also Willie’s estranged mother. All three are employed by a local charity that they plan to rob, if they can beat the corrupt owner to the punch.

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The plot is pretty thin as evidence by the short synopsis above but whereas the first film went for a darker, more unpredictable effort, “Bad Santa 2” focuses on a lot more sight gags, verbal jabs and over the top politically incorrect merriment that just about guarantees even if you’ve been nice this year, this one is naughty enough to make you feel like you haven’t. Sure, it’s a bit predictable but there is a potent mix in the series of both unrelenting sadness that many feel at the holidays that is rarely touched upon in Christmas cinema (with a notable exception of “The Ref” which is my families perennial favorite) and social commentary on how the spirit of the season has become ghost like in favor of the almighty Church of Consumerism. When it’s all said and done though, “Bad Santa” is a cast of almost completely unlikeable, miserable people and a time of the year where at least some of them find at least a small spark of humanity and if that dims, the over the top, SJW enraging humor is a damn fine gift itself.

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Kathy Bates is a lot of fun here, playing the complete opposite of her beloved “The Waterboy” matriarch while newcomers Christina Hendricks and Jenny Zigrino blend sex appeal and sly humor to great effect. Yet, it’s actually the returning Thurman Merman (Brett Kelly) whose earnest pursuit and unyielding support of Willie feels very real and much like the first film has a bizarre charm that makes you want to hug and hit him in equal measures.

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With the template set by “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” and “Planes, Trains and Automobiles,” the black comedy and raunchy taste of both “Bad Santa” pictures is a sweet alternative to the often saccharin nature of the holiday.  If that sounds like your cup of eggnog (with an extra-large dollop of alcohol) “Bad Santa 2” is a real stocking stuffer.

  • Its kind of creepy that that is the same kid. Wasn’t expecting that.