Release Date: November 23, 2016
Director: Mark Waters
Writer: Johnny Rosenthal, Shauna Cross, Glenn Ficarra, John Requa
Cast: 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-Andre Boulanger, Sean Devine, Maria Herrera, Christopher Tyson, Tyrone Benskin, Bineyam Girma, Valerie Wiseman, Arthur Holden, Violet Reid
MPAA Rating: R
Runtime: 92 minutes
Production Company: Broad Green Pictures, Ingenious Media, Miramax
Genre: Comedy, Crime, Drama
Budget: $26 million
On the surface, anal sex and Christmas aren’t two things that would typically coincide with one another. Somehow they were the perfect match back in 2003 when Bad Santa hit theaters. That film was a combination of the most random things that should’ve caused a disaster, but worked through movie magic. The protagonist was a lazy drunk, who ripped off his neighbors and lied to children. He was verbally abusive and just all out irresponsible, which at the same time was shockingly hilarious. In addition, with the perfect casting in Billy Bob Thornton and a clever script, it’s arguably one of the funniest comedies ever. Obviously, any studio would want to make a sequel. Most of the cast is back, and it holds out with the first as far as the laughs, but some of the jokes are worn out over a story that doesn’t flow as smoothly.
Actually, the story flows fine, but the problem is it flows too well without the necessary bumps to make certain situations more believable. One aspect that made the first film great was how it was honest it was with an upredictable ending. .d You had no clue how the story would conclude, but it did in natural realistic way based off normal human logic. It was clever writing that saved the day. This time the writing is not thought through enough to connect the important dots to link characters’ relationships back up from the past film to the present. The ending as well as characters reuniting was too convenient, containing no creativity, and felt forced. Some character elements turned out great, while the others were faulty.
Comparing the two films, Willie (Thornton) had obstacles to overcome in the first film; having to babysit a house that isn’t his, being involved in the neighborhood sand bag lighting project, and having his manager find reasons to fire him because of his love for large women. These are just some of the few hoops Willie had to jump through to succeed, and it was funny. In part 2, instead of dealing with real characters from different walks of life (Bernie Mac & John Ritter), he’s dealing with cartoon characters aspiring to be the next super security guard, the next boss in town, or another that thinks living the good life is driving a Chrysler 300. There are laughable moments throughout these turnouts, but it’s nothing genuinely clever. Just people over acting.
The biggest mistake was the direction that was taken with Thurman Murmam (Black Kelly). Having him cast as the awkward teen with no friends in the first film was a stroke of genius. Not only was he funny, but he was completely innocent even if he was socially misguided. Using the same tool in the sequel didn’t work quite as well. The child isn’t thirteen anymore, he’s a twenty-one year old young man. So having him wander around lifeless doesn’t work. His character is too remedial for the surrounding environment. The film addresses this in an organic way, by having extras stare. Every encounter is funny, but it still doesn’t come close to what came before and is a distraction every time the plot gets interesting.
So while the story is rather shallow, and the characters are hit and miss, the comedy you’re anticipating is there. As soon as you see Willie again for the first time, you’re already laughing before the first joke lands. It’s just something about the role that tickles you on the inside. Maybe because it’s just funny or you’re laughing because your life doesn’t stink as bad. Whatever the reason, Willie’s character is able to make you laugh inside out by being as blunt and honest as he can be. There aren’t as many outbursts as before, but it sure is enough to make it worth your while.
On another note, it is understood that Kathy Bates is a phenomenal actress. This time she was fine not adding anything significant, but also not taking anything away. What this film is lacking the most was the confidence to go for it again. The first film wasn’t shy in the least bit and held nothing back with its vulgarity. That type of content isn’t what guarantees a film to be great, but when that’s the backbone of a character it’s needed to flesh out the overall experience. Bad Santa 2 is a fun viewing experience, but it doesn’t match up to the wonderful achievement that came before.