BAD SANTA 2 Review: Joyfully Worse Than The First

You definitely get what you paid for with this one.

I’ll say this about Bad Santa 2: when choosing whether to double down on the first film’s sincere sweetness or its vile temperament, it definitely chose the latter. It’s about as disgusting, foul and mean a movie as you’re likely to see at your local shopping mall any time soon. Director Mark Waters (taking over from the original’s Terry Zwigoff) definitely didn’t make a typical watered-down sequel.

But you may be asking yourself if that’s actually what you want. By the time Bad Santa 2 ends, it feels like you’ve just spent 90 minutes being yelled at by a drunken fool who’d fight you if he could stand without wobbling. The spittle and barf and bad breath has an almost 3D effect to it. Funny at first, but after a while you just want to shower.

Actually, it’s not really funny at first. The film opens with a couple failed suicide attempts and goes pretty quickly into racial slurs and disability jokes (at one point Kathy Bates tells Tony Cox that if he thinks she’s not being PC enough about his height “he can take it up with the Lollypop Guild”). A couple months ago a line like that would probably get a laugh from me. Now such language feels less ornery and more chilling.

The film itself offers a simple crime plot in which Billy Bob Thornton, Kathy Bates (playing his mom, a real charmer who had him at thirteen when she was in juvie - “the one time you father didn’t put it in my ass and I had to get pregnant”) and Tony Cox ripoff a children’s charity for two million dollars. It’s a thin framework the film fills with as much yelling, cursing and gross fucking as possible (for some reason everyone wants to have sex with this guy).

Bad Santa 2 does try for some of the original’s sweetness by bringing Brett Kelly’s Thurman Merman back into the mix. As an adult, however, Thurman’s extreme stupidity feels more on par with everything else going on than any kind of reprieve from it. He still pulls Willie’s heartstrings but now that manifests in Willie getting him a hooker or dropping him off at a homeless shelter rather than share a room with him.

I’m not trying to mistakenly paint the first film as sentimental. It obviously wasn’t. But it was, to borrow one of its words, spry. This one is not. Thornton himself plays Willie with a lot more weariness and depression than before. When he tries to kill himself in the opening moments, you don’t have much of an argument against it.

Bad Santa 2 lazily recalls jokes and repeats situations from the original, but it’s not a completely soulless sequel, even if that soul is moldy and rotten. If that’s what you’re looking for, you’ll definitely find it. For some, however, its overall meanness at this particular time feels like someone incorrectly reading the room and might leave a worse than intended taste in your mouth.