Review: Bad Santa 2 (2016)

Bad Santa 2 (2016)

Directed by: Mark Waters | 92 minutes | comedy, crime, drama | Actors: Billy Bob Thornton, Kathy Bates, Tony Cox, Christina Hendricks, Brett Kelly, Ryan Hansen, Jenny Zigrino, Jeff Skowron, Cristina Rosato, Mike Starr, Octavia Spencer, Ranee Lee, Selah Victor, Lombardo Boyar, Dean Hagopian, Marc- André Boulanger, Sean Devine, Maria Herrera

How much can a sequel suffer from its predecessor? That question is answered while watching “Bad Santa 2.” Billy Bob Thornton reprises his role as Willie, a nihilistic drunk who fills his days with booze and sex. Also in part 2, Willie impersonates Santa Claus to commit a robbery that way, again with the help of little foul-mouthed Marcus.

Where part 1 surprised mainly by the contrast between the sugary sweet character of Christmas and the depraved character of Willie, part 2 feels more like an easy fill-in exercise. A Santa Claus who swears, drinks and fucks: well, we already know that. We can see that he has a heart after all. Now that that element is gone, there is ultimately not much left than a somewhat crude, black comedy with many predictable lame jokes.

It’s not up to the actors. Main characters Billy Bob Thornton and Kathy Bates in particular are clearly having a good time in ‘Bad Santa 2’. In some scenes, you even get the sense that they don’t know what the other person is going to say or do and that their response is genuine. It’s a cliché but there is definitely a certain chemistry between the two. The supporting cast is of lesser quality, but because of the superficiality of the characters this is not very noticeable. The only one who does rise above average is Brett Kelly, who plays Willie’s somewhat autistic friend. His character gets more space in the film and Kelly knows how to handle that.

However, the story of ‘Bad Santa 2’ depends on predictability. Criminals cannot be trusted and the main character develops from a bad guy into a good guy. That lack of surprise doesn’t have to be a bad thing, especially not as long as the jokes are good enough. But even those are not very uplifting. Most jokes you see coming far in advance and are also (or perhaps because of that) very bland. Sometimes there is a good, surprising one, but unfortunately that is the exception rather than the rule.

The above combined with the fact that part 1 has stolen the unique selling point makes that ‘Bad Santa 2’ is just not special enough. It’s all been done before. Because the element that made part 1 so fun in part 2 is a given, what remains is some bland, predictable black comedy that is actually in no way special.

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