Film Review: ‘Bad Santa 2’

If you’re searching for that sidesplitting, perfectly off-color holiday movie experience, and you’ve seen ‘Bad Santa’ more times than you can count, then go ahead and watch it again.

Like so many other comedy sequels, ‘Bad Santa 2’ fails to capture the magic of the original. That being said, it is certainly a funny movie, and fans of its predecessor will surely rejoice at watching Billy Bob Thornton don the Santa suit again; his performance as the drunken, offensive anti-hero Willie Soke caries the film. However, some problems arise in the film’s tonal departure from the original: ‘Bad Santa 2’ is raunchier and more sentimental, but not as dark, and not as serious as ‘Bad Santa’.

Because our sensibilities have apparently changed over the thirteen years since ‘Bad Santa’ came out, the team behind the sequel felt the need to increase the crude humor in order to keep up with the modern trend in R-rated comedies. As you might imagine, it sometimes falls flat. While there is, for some reason, something decidedly funny about Academy Award winning actress Kathy Bates, tattooed and bikerish, waving a pink vibrator around at Billy Bob Thornton, the film’s overly crude humor often comes across as silly and cringe-inducing.

In addition to being raunchier, ‘Bad Santa 2’ is more emotional than its predecessor. While the original film also has an emotional core, the sentiment it possesses is strange and unconventional, as well as restrained. By comparison, the heart of the sequel feels generic and excessive. One thing that has not changed between films, however, is Brett Kelly’s cherubic Thurman Merman, who has grown up to be an enlarged version of his younger self. Kelly, one of the highlights of the film, is still every bit at lovable as he was in the ‘Bad Santa’.

The increase of crude humor and sentimentality in ‘Bad Santa 2’ effectively dilutes the dark tone of the original film. While Kathy Bates delivers a solid, fun performance, the decision to make Willie Soke’s mother a comic figure detracts from the tragic past the anti-hero is suppose to have had. Furthermore, the movie’s multiple homages to the original are all, to some extent, watered down. Take for example Willie’s attempted suicide in each movie: in the first film, the scene is intense and fucked up; in the sequel however, Willie’s attempt to hang himself is played off as a bizarre attempt at slapstick comedy.

It is my personal belief that the sequel’s tonal departure from the original ‘Bad Santa’ was coldly contrived in order to make the movie more palatable to a mass audience during a time in which Billie Bob Thornton is celebrating a high watermark in his career, and is thus currently a very marketable actor. What I love about the first film is how it is weird and irreverent in all the right ways. Ultimately, I think the film resonated so well with people because it was a stark departure from the mainstream, saccharine holiday movies that Hollywood cranks out every year with robotic precision. While ‘Bad Santa 2’ may not be a generic holiday movie, it is little more than a generic comedy sequel; if it surpasses that label, it is only by the strength of the characters and cast. ‘Bad Santa 2’ is still a funny movie, it is just a shame that they did not want to take any risks with the film.

Photo courtesy of Facebook

‘Bad Santa 2’ is coming to town November 23rd.


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