IN CINEMAS NOW
RUNNING TIME: 95 min
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
Willie Soke is still living a empty life fuelled by booze, greed and having to fend off the friendship of Thurman Merman – and it’s making him suicidal. Then he encounters former partner in crime Marcus Skidmore who has just finished spending ten years in prison. Marcus brings a job for both him and Willie in Chicago that will consist of stealing $2million on Christmas Eve from a charity aimed at helping underprivileged children. Unfortuntely, not only is their third accomplice Willie’s equally offensive mother Sunny, but Willie has to put the Santa Claus suit back on as part of his ‘cover’ job….
Bad Santa 2 isn’t great, but it’s not as dreadful as all that. Bad Santa was something of a surprise in how well it subverted the idea of Christmas, how funny it was, yet how it also managed to still be a genuine Christmas movie with some heart. This sequel, which they should have really made just a few years after the original when it was first being talked about instead of 13 years later, is mostly a mechanical rehash. It’s been criticised by obviously sensitive critics for its total lack of political correctness, the film going far further than the original in how dark or crude it will go for a laugh, and not giving a damn who it offends, though that’s not what bothered me so much. The real problem with the extremely low humour in this film is that, after a while, it becomes rather repetitive, forced, and therefore not so funny. How many insults against ‘little people’ do we really need to have? Shoot me dead but I don’t mind some. However, the script, which wasn’t written by anybody connected with the original, just doesn’t know when enough is enough and things just get tiresome. I was in the mood for some vulgar laughs and I did find myself laughing at times in the first half an hour, but after that I chuckled less and less as the film was just giving us variations on the same ‘jokes’ over and over again. As with certain other recent efforts like Spy, too much of the ‘comedy’ revolves around endless tiresome usage of the F word and cruel insults, and the hugely naïve, possibly mentally challenged Thurman isn’t anywhere near as amusing as the screenwriter thinks he is, the film almost stopping dead whenever he turns up, except for when the character supplies one moment which is surprisingly touching near the end.
There’s a distinct lack of one of the things that made the first movie work so well – Willie’s interactions with ‘normal’ folk and how shocking he was to them. In this one, he fails to make as much of an impact because most of the other characters are as over the top as him, and they’re usually overacted too so they don’t convince. A good example is Willie’s ‘love interest’. Lauren Graham’s character in the first movie, despite her quirky aspects, felt like an actual human being and her relationship with Willie was a little bit believable and you wanted them to be together. Here, Christina Hendrick’s character is just cardboard and irritating and it’s impossible to buy her and Willie getting involved. It’s not all bad though. Some jokes are indeed very funny if you don’t mind this kind of thing even if some of the best moments just riff on ones from the original, there’s still terrific chemistry between Billy Bob Thornton and Tony Cox, Thornton himself is as wonderfully sleazy, cynical and self-loathing as before [the character’s just great and probably belongs in a better film], and director Mark Waters gives us a surprising number of nice visual compositions for a film like this. In the end though, Bad Santa 2, while it may be better than you may have heard, is basically yet another comedy sequel that mostly feels like it was just made for the money with little effort, and if the filmmakers don’t seem to care very much, then why should we?