Ill-tempered, rude and crude, Billy Bob Thornton returns as anti-hero Willie Soke 13 years after he first donned the Christmas clobber in the independent black comedy Bad Santa for the sequel, predictably titled Bad Santa 2. Bad Santa was the story of a cynical thief who disguised himself as a department store Santa each winter so that he and his partner, Marcus, could rob shopping centres. The film’s mordant wit and wild antics managed to strike a cord and Thornton received a Golden Globe nomination for his portrayal of Soke.
Now, having hit rock bottom, fueled by cheap whiskey, greed and hatred, Willie teams up again with his angry little sidekick, Marcus (Tony Cox), to knock off a Chicago charity on Christmas Eve. Along for the ride is “the kid” – chubby and cheery Thurman Merman (Brett Kelly), a 250-pound ray of sunshine who brings out Willie’s sliver of humanity. Mommy issues arise when the pair is joined by Kathy Bates, as Willie’s horror-story of a mother, Sunny Soke. A super butch super bitch, Sunny raises the bar for the gang’s ambitions, while somehow lowering the standards of criminal behavior. Willie is further burdened by lusting after the curvaceous and prim Diane, played by Christina Hendricks, the charity director with a heart of gold and a pulsating, underappreciated libido.
Mark Waters directs Bad Santa 2 from a screenplay by Johnny Rosenthal and Shauna Cross, based upon characters created by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa. Waters says he was attracted by the prospect of making a “really raunchy Christmas movie, while sneakily making an actual Christmas movie”. A large part of the success of Bad Santa was the way Thornton assumed the persona of Claus. He played him downbeat, with a slow, deadpan look and delivery. That is once again apparent in the sequel.
Willie’s thieving mother exploited him as a kid and now she’s doing that again. Deep down, notwithstanding their fractured past, he still wants the emotional connection and Sunny plays on that. Cox returns as Willie’s short (3 foot 6 inch) and cranky partner in crime, who swears like a trooper. Thurman Merman was introduced in Bad Santa when he was a young boy. Now he has grown to manhood, but he’s still childlike and adores Willie, no matter how hard Willie tries to avoid him. He’s now this early 20s ingénue with a heart of gold totally unprepared for the real world … who is good at making sandwiches. Another newcomer to the team is Christina Hendricks as “the good girl” with a dirty streak, which Willie manages to bring out in her.
Those who enjoyed the original will find enough to satiate themselves in this sequel. I dare say for the returning cast and crew it felt like stepping back into a comfortable pair of old slippers. Political incorrectness, raunchy behaviour, foul language and ineptitude are the cornerstones of this franchise and Bad Santa 2 continues the tradition of milking that, of pushing it to the limit with physical and verbal comedy.
Montreal stands in for Chicago and Arizona in the sequel and one of the funny moments in the film was inadvertently created because of the dominant French language spoken there. “We had a little girl we decided to use as one of the kids who sits on Santa’s lap and tells him what she wants for Christmas,” says director Waters. “We discovered, though, that she didn’t speak any English at all, and on top of that, she ran her two lines together so the result was completely incomprehensible. Billy’s reaction, when he hears this jumbled sentence in French, is great.”
The movie’s climax and major chase scene takes place during SantaCon, an annual event that involves hundreds of people dressing like Santa (and his elves) and going on a massive, drunken bar crawl. What could be a more fitting ending to a movie that sets out to break the rules!
So, it depends upon what you are after when going to the pictures as to whether or not Bad Santa 2 will hold any interest for you. It’s all about getting down and getting dirty. It may be puerile, lowbrow entertainment to some, but inappropriateness and the ability to shock and generate a laugh and a snigger by so doing is its stock in trade and on that score it delivers. Rated MA, Bad Santa 2 scores a 6 out of 10.
Director: Mark Waters
Cast: Billy Bob Thornton, Kathy Bates, Tony Cox, Christina Hendricks, Brett Kelly
Release Date: 24 November 2016
Rating: MA 15+
David Edwards is the editor of The Blurb and a contributor on film and television