As far as sequels go, Bad Santa 2 isn't horrible..
...But it's still totally unnecessary.
As a standalone film, the original Bad Santa is a holiday classic and one of the funniest movies of the 2000s. At the time, it was shocking, crude, reprehensible, but still heartwarming. It also, for better or for worse, inspired countless "Bad" imitators like Bad Teacher, Bad Grandpa, and Bad Moms, to name a few.
This time around, Willy (Billy Bob Thorton) and his sidekick Marcus (Tony Cox) try to knock off a Chicago charity on Christmas Eve. Helping the duo is Willy's long lost mom Sunny (Kathy Bates), who is fresh out of prison. Thurman Merman (Brett Kelly) is also back, much to the chagrin of Willy's crew.
Despite the familiar plot, Bad Santa 2 doesn't come close to the original. Part of the problem are the missing cast members from the first film. Lauren Graham, who had great chemistry with Thorton in the original, is sorely missed. Also, the absence of the late actors Bernie Mack and John Ritter cannot be ignored.
Filling in for Graham is Mad Men's Christina Hendricks, but her role is ultimately forgettable and could have been played by anyone. The Oscar-winning Kathy Bates simply isn't funny as Willy's mom. She has a couple amusing lines, but even a fine actress such as Bates can't overcome the unfunny dialogue she's been given. While it was funny to hear her call Thorton a "shit stick" the first time and to learn the phrase's origin, it was annoying the thirtieth time the phrase was uttered.
Thorton is serviceable as Willy and delivers several laugh-out-loud lines sprinkled throughout the film, but nothing memorable. That's not to say that Thorton isn't funny, he just doesn't have anything new to bring to the table, which comes down to lack of good writing.
Ultimately, the only character worth caring about is Thurman. When we last saw Thurman he was an awkward and overweight young boy and now he's an awkward and overweight 21-year-old man. As was true with the previous film, Kelly does a great job injecting heart into the movie, as is evident in a couple thoughtful scenes with Thorton.
That being said, the magic just isn't there this time out. There are enough amusing crude jokes and gags to keep viewers laughing, but there isn't enough heart to keep audiences engaged and committed to the characters. Also, what was shocking and bold in the original now seems tired and stale. The end credits, which features "found photos" has been done before and was a painfully unfunny way to end the film.
As is true with the Anchorman and Zoolander sequels, Bad Santa 2's plot is recycled and the actors (aside from Kelly) just seem to be going through the motions. And ultimately, it's 13 years too late for anyone to really care. While it isn't horrible, Bad Santa 2 certainly isn't a worthy sequel by any means.
Rating: 2.5 out of 5
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