I did not like the first ‘Bad Santa’ with Billy Bob Thornton as the alcoholic, sex-crazed, and depressive bank robber Willie Soke, and Tony Cox as his partner, Marcus, as they respectively dress up as department store Santa and helper elf to steal millions from the many malls they work at. However, with ‘Bad Santa 2’, I feel the need to be like the real Santa Claus and check that list twice. The first film was definitely mean-spirited in tone when comparing it to your favorite Christmas classics, (‘National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation’, ‘A Christmas Carol’, ‘A Christmas Story’, among many others.) but what added to its success was that the tone was used to the film’s advantage; I didn’t think there was that much heart to it, but I can see that it didn’t try to be funny, the humor just happened and it added to the story. This unnecessary sequel believes that lightning strikes twice and focuses more on telling jokes instead of being consistent and letting the magic happen.
Thornton returns as Soke, who is filled with the utmost depression, spending his days drinking the nearest bottle of booze he can get his hands on, attempting suicide, and dealing with constant visits from Thurman Merman, (Brett Kelly from the first film) who is older, yet not wiser; even though he means well. To make things worse, Marcus (Cox) is also set from early release for the prison being overcrowded; which causes Soke to reluctantly team up with him for one more robbery attempt at a charity run by the kind-hearted Diane (Christina Hendricks attempting some failed sex-crazed comedy) and her husband Regent (Ryan Hansen). At the charity, Soke and Marcus run into the former’s seemingly sweet, but crass and abusive mother Sunny (Kathy Bates), who is only working at the charity just to set up the robbery. This ends up causing not only more offensive, foul-mouthed attempts at comedy, but tension as Soke has to deal with Thurman trying to track him down, working with Marcus, and the relationship with his mother.
The one thing that ‘Bad Santa 2’ tries to do is to raise the stakes and be more mean-spirited than its predecessor; however, if there’s one thing that I’ve learned after watching ‘Dumb and Dumber To’ is that just because something seemed to work the first time, doesn’t mean it will have the same effect on its previous audience that gave it the box-office dough, or cult status the second time around. Comedy is a very hard thing to do twice, and if a writer/director knows his craft and has that talent, the magic will still happen. I have seen comedy sequels that worked, such as ’22 Jump Street’, the rest of the ‘Vacation’ films (except ‘Vegas Vacation’, which I have not seen yet.), ‘Beverly Hills Cop II’, ‘Airplane II: The Sequel’, and ‘Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising’, because the humor was genuine and the laughs kept coming.
With ‘Bad Santa 2’, the laughs might be there for some, but for me, I wasn’t feeling it. The problem I had with this film was that there were too many jokes and not enough story. With a film like this, we expect shock; just make sure that there is a point for putting scenes where they need to be and come to a resolution with them, otherwise your film is complete nonsense and doesn’t work. I can tell that these jokes are funny, and I admit that I did chuckle more than I did, but where’s the balance between humor and plot elements? All I can see from this movie is that it is trying to put these characters in situations just for cheap laughs when the first film knew how to tone itself down and focus on its characters and plot. All I can say is that my Christmas cheer has turned into Christmas misery. I think I need some eggnog and peppermint schnapps to help me forget this experience of a film.