#REVIEW: “BAD SANTA 2”
Review by David Baldwin for Mr. Will Wong
Willie Soke (Billy Bob Thornton) is still an alcoholic, still working dead-end jobs, still sleeping with whoever he can, and still cannot get rid of Thurman Merman (Brett Kelly), the kid he befriended 13 years ago. By chance, Willie’s former partner Marcus (Tony Cox) calls with a job that will net the pair millions of dollars. But there’s a catch: they will have to work alongside Willie’s estranged mother Sunny (Kathy Bates), who might actually be even worse of a person than her son is.
Bad Santa is a preposterously-funny Christmas Film that continues to get better with age. So Bad Santa 2 had some awfully-large costumed boots to fill. But for the most part, it manages to be a whole lot of fun. The story is admittedly weak, and Writers Johnny Rosenthal and Shauna Cross pack in way too many near useless supporting characters. But they wisely emphasize the ridiculous hijinks Willie gets himself into, and let Director Mark Waters mine his reactions for comic gold. They drop-in references to the original Film generously, but never overuse or rely on them too heavily. Instead, they amp up the depravity and create laughs that push well beyond the limits of decency.
Despite the long gap between Films, Thornton slips into the role of Willie effortlessly. While he is a little softer around the edges here, he is just as much of a foul-mouthed, perverted and genuinely awful human being as he was before. But the beauty of Thornton’s performance is how endearing he makes the character. You may have trouble figuring out how he can deliver such revoltingly-hilarious dialogue without blushing, but you will never question how dedicated he is to selling the character. He is always on, and never wastes any moment of the Film’s 92-minute running time. His chemistry with Cox makes for hysterical banter, and the push-and-pull he does with Kelly is just as great as it was in the original Film. I may like the character a bit too much for my own good, but I doubt I will ever tire of watching Thornton play Willie.
While Cox is still committed to every ridiculous thing the Filmmakers and Writers throw at him, the entirety of the new supporting cast falls a bit flat. Bates lets it all hang out as Sunny, but her character feels like a carbon copy of Willie: disgusting and depraved, but completely devoid of his charm and wit. Jeff Skowron is overbearing as a bumbling security guard and is completely unfunny all too frequently. Ryan Hansen is a glorified plot device, with his one mentioned quirk being saved for the extended footage on the Unrated Blu-ray. The stunning Christina Hendricks has some development, but she is basically playing the exact same character Lauren Graham played in the first Film. Jenny Zigrino fares even worse when it comes to the Film’s archaic attitude towards sex – but at least she gets a few laughs in.
I am still undecided on Kelly’s much older take on Thurman though. He still uses deadpan humour to his advantage, but his character is a lot less endearing here – and a whole lot sillier.
Bad Santa 2 is ridiculously-funny and revels in how filthy it quickly becomes. The Film is being released nearly 13 years to the day of the original, and somehow Thornton seems to have lost absolutely none of the humour, charisma or absurdity of the lead character. Where the supporting cast and story falter under their weak material, Thornton remains strong. This sequel was never going to be an instant classic like its first chapter, but if you like your Christmas movies a little dirtier than the norm, then stick with this Santa.
eOne Films release BAD SANTA 2 in theatres on Wednesday, November 23, 2016.