Starring: Billy Bob Thornton, Kathy Bates, Christina Hendricks
Director: Mark Waters
Running Time: 92 mins
Synopsis: Washed up and drinking himself into oblivion, Willie Sokes (Thornton) decides to end it all one Christmas, but just as he tries his former partner Marcus (Tony Cox) re-emerges offering the chance of one final safe cracking job. The operation, however, is being led by his dirty mouthed abusive mother (Kathy Bates). Much cussing ensues.
In a year of Independence Day revivals, Gilmore Girls reunions and Stargate remake announcements (although the latter has now been put on hold) it’s no surprise to see a belated follow up to a 2003 mild comedy hit. Landing in the Holiday season of the early Noughts Bad Santa was a crude, totally un-PC but surprisingly heartfelt Christmas classic. Sadly though this follow-up lacks the wit and clever balance of smut to heart that the original possessed.
Opening on a malnourished drunken Billy Bob Thornton (seriously that guy always looks one step away from being seriously ill) ogling a breast-feeding mother before crashing the car he’s valet driving, losing his job and then attempting suicide in an electric oven, you are in no doubt that this is the sort of film where cheer is in short supply. As his old partner Marcus returns, Tony Cox whose only skill is swearing repeatedly to dull effect, and the young boy who so warmed Willie’s heart in the first, Brett Kelly a shining light of dimness and humour, the thin plot kicks in. Claiming he has a one last job sorta deal for Willie they both join up and head to Chicago, but not before an awkward attempt to pop young Thurman Merman’s cherry. A scene involving Oscar nominee Octavia Spencer, contractually obliged to reprise her first film role no doubt, and a hilarious monologue from Thornton about first time sex. Unspeakably graphic and truthful, it is one of a few writing gems that get through amidst the childish profanity and sex talk.
It is when they get to Chicago that the movie’s ace in the sleeve arrives. Kathy Bates powers onto the screen in a hail of horrific language, racist put downs and general meanness. She seems to be having a whale of a time as Willie’s tat covered, dildo loving, faintly abusive mother. It is in this relationship that some subtle heart shines through, you sense that she genuinely cares for her son, and he does for her, but thankfully the film doesn’t take a wild swing into mawkish reconciliation come the end, instead opting for a more believable series of double crosses.
The genius of Terry Zwigoff’s original was the gentle balance of smut to sentimentality that gave it the real feel-good Christmas touch. Sadly the balance is not particularly strong this time out. There are moments involving said mother and son interplay, and a touching late act scene between Willie and Thurman where it almost warms the soul, but they feel more manufactured to elicit that response. The first built slowly and effectively into the gradual softening Willie had towards the young idiot.
It surely doesn’t help that this sequel lacks the necessary laughs to keep the pace going. Mistaking crass talk, repeated scenes of dirty sex (captured with a surprisingly rude performance from an underused Christina Hendricks), and flagrant misogyny as humour. There are far too many scenes where the punchline is saying “fuck” followed by something racist that lull you into a state of boredom. Don’t get me wrong the first had these moments but they were better scripted and featured less so than here. It all leaves a somewhat distasteful feel to proceedings. Perhaps that is the point but I just wished there was a bit more brain to the incessant dick jokes. Still 14yr old boys will find this a delightful early Christmas present.
Verdict: Thornton and Bates are a wicked treat in an otherwise repetitive and crude Christmas sleaze-a-thon. A few gold nuggets lie within, and the heart does sporadically beat but stick with the first for your sinful Christmas cheer.