Willie, fueled by cheap whiskey, greed and self-loathing, is back for another caper with his angry sidekick Marcus. Only this time they’ve moved on from department school heists, joining the big leagues as they hatch a plan to rob some $2,000,000 from a Chicago charity on Christmas Eve.
Billy Bob Thornton’s Willie unknowingly describes Bad Santa 2 to near perfection with “Welcome to the shit show.” At a time when people are sick and tired of unnecessary sequels, director Mark Waters has delivered the most unnecessary of sequels. I refuse to go straight up hyperbolic and say it’s the worst sequel of all time; however, there is absolutely no denying that this one just isn’t needed.
Originally I felt this film deserved worse than the “rewarded” F-rating, but upon later review (and a good night’s sleep) I had to credit the crude Christmas comedy for what it did right.
The acting is fairly good and Billy Bob Thornton does a great job as the boozing and thieving Willie. His chemistry with the rest of his cast is spot on and that falls more on his acting acumen then any of the writing. Thornton does the best that he can with what he is given, which, though not much does deserve a mention. But for all Thornton does right, you cannot overlook the fact that Willie has no redeeming quality. Though there is a passive mention or two of it in the third act, it’s not nearly enough to keep you from getting up and walking out of the theater.
Somehow this film was able to accumulate a fantastic cast, which it was quick to disregard. Kathy Bates plays Willie’s mother, the horrid Sunny Stoke. Though a bit cruder than her son, Sunny provides a fairly evident reason behind Willie’s life choices, finally giving us all a slight explanation as to just why he would find it keen to rob a children’s charity on Christmas Eve.
Tony Cox and Brett Kelly star as Marcus and Thurman Merman respectively. Both are great in their roles with Kelly stealing nearly every scene he is in with his dim-wittedness. And one cannot forget about Christina Hendricks’ turn as the charity’s co-founder (and Willie’s quasi- “love interest”) Diane. Hendricks is a funny and charismatic actress who should command any scene that she is in. But much like Bates, she is ultimately wasted here.
The directing by Mark Waters is tolerable at best, but the bright spots of the film fall within the responsibility of cinematographer Theo van de Sande, who does a fantastic job at capturing the beauty of Chicago during winter. His ability to relish in all the city has to offer allows for the creation of another character…one that cannot talk as it offers us a visual ecstasy.
Bad Santa 2 is neither entertaining nor memorable. The writing is trite, contrived and vulgar and lacks the wit and creativity of the series’ original. Instead of funny we get shocking, which only works once…maybe twice. The cursing simply for cursing sake can work; however, here it comes off as nothing more than lazy writing.
It’s unfortunate really, especially considering how solid the 2003 original was. Twelve years is proven too long of a hiatus…and Bad Santa 2 proves to be another sequel that we just didn’t want, need or enjoy.