Review: ‘Bad Santa 2’ is Awfully Desperate in its Desire to Make Us Gasp

No, the first Bad Santa wasn’t a great work of art. But it took a single joke — the worst Santa ever — and made something agreeably twisted out of it. For any curmudgeons who would prefer a lump of coal in their stocking than to participate in heartwarming festive cheer, Billy Bob Thornton’s memorably cranky performance as Willie Soke, a sexist, alcoholic, thieving misanthrope, was the ideal whiskey-soaked respite.

This sequel, arriving like a grubby gift no wanted some thirteen years later, repeats the same schtick all over again, but ups the ante in political incorrectness to a degree that’s frighteningly dull. Bad Santa 2 can’t help but feel exhausted, coming after a whole generation of Bad Teachers, Bad Moms, Dirty Grandpas, and other garden-variety Todd Phillips/Judd Apatow gross-out joints. From the endless stream of profanities to the now-standard end credits “shocking photo roll” gag, the film is awfully desperate in its desire to make us gasp.

Bad Kathy Bates is occasionally fun, however. As Willie’s butch, tatted-up long-lost mother Sunny, she’s a welcome snarling ball of villainy who’s somehow even more monstrous than him. But there’s a limit to how much the writers can wrest out of her character. When you get to the point where Bates is taking a shit while watching The Bachelor, the novelty’s worn off. Overlong, and criminally unfunny, Bad Santa 2’s mix of lazily-written caper antics, T&A-ogling sleaze and unearned, third-act redemption arcs is only offensive in its mediocrity.

‘Bad Santa 2’ Movie Times | ‘Bad Santa’ on DVD & On Demand