Bad Santa 2 (1 star)

Bad Santa 2

Lame sequel to the bad taste Christmas classic, reuniting Billy Bob Thornton and Tony Cox

The original Bad Santa defied the spirit of Christmas and won. The black comedy about a cynical crook who works as a department store Santa so that he can rob his employers was foul-mouthed, politically incorrect, lewd and rude. It shouldn't have worked. But it did. Billy Bob Thornton's casual spleen was pitch-perfect, the bleakness surprisingly bracing, and it was very, very funny. Anyone gleefully anticipating this reprise would be wrong to think that Christmas has arrived early. The magic has gone. Bad Santa 2 doesn't deliver anything beyond 'Bah, humbug!'.

Having ended the first film feeling a glimmer of goodwill, Thornton's alcoholic nihilist Willie Soke has slid back to suicidal rock-bottom, when his estranged dwarf accomplice Marcus (Tony Cox) returns with the promise of a million-dollar payday. Willie isn't troubled by the fact that their target is a children's charity. But he's almightily aggrieved at the news that their new partner is his diabolical mother Sunny (Kathy Bates) and that he has to 'get into the suit again'. As the trio join a team of charity Santas, up pops Thurman Merman (Brett Kelly), the boy from Bad Santa, now an adult, yet still stalking Willie in the persistent half-belief that he is actually Claus.

Thurman used to exert a certain pathos, now he's just plain creepy. And that sums up the problem here. There can be no underestimating the deft touch of the original's director, Terry Zwigoff, and writers in achieving comedy and moments of warmth out of so much bad taste and ill humour. Without that touch, a new team – including director Mark Waters – leaves us feeling bludgeoned, dirtied and depressed. Thornton, Bates and Cox give their all to the misanthropic dialogue, but they're spewing bile without a safety net. Bad Santa is one Christmas classic that should have been left well alone.

General release from Wed 23 Nov.


Bad Santa 2

  • 1 star
  • 2016
  • US
  • 1h 36min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Mark Waters
  • Cast: Billy Bob Thornton, Tony Cox, Brett Kelly, Kathy Bates, Christina Hendricks
  • UK release: 23 November 2016

Willie (Thornton) has slid back to rock bottom when his estranged accomplice Marcus (Cox) returns with the promise of a big payday. The first film was foul-mouthed, politically incorrect, lewd and rude, but also bracing and very funny. This is just bludgeoning, misanthropic and depressing and should never have been made.