It’s probably not a great idea to include the line “welcome to the shitstorm” in your sequel as the temptation for disgruntled movie reviewers to start their review with it is just so strong.
Luckily I am more creative than that. But unfortunately Bad Santa 2 is really not a great movie. Where the first Bad Santa movie, back in 2003, included all that is best about the festive season, being brash, foul-mouthed, misanthropic, disgusting and sex-filled; it was also genuinely funny, its gradually growing friendship beautifully told. And actually remarkably realistic.
This sequel, coming well over a decade later, has lost the humour, bleak though it was, and is now just a bad-tempered misery fest, where a lot of the jokes are offensive but not funny, laughing at or attacking people who are weaker or less privileged. Which, if I were more of a chin-stroker, I would suggest is much like society now.
Time has not been kind to Willie (Billy Bob Thornton). He lives alone, and is still drinking and smoking to excess, with occasional visits from Thurman (Brett Kelly). The kid from the first film is 21 now, and there’s still some bond there as Willie tries to help him (unsuccessfully) to lose his virginity.
Meanwhile Willie tries to kill himself, badly, discovering in the process that electric ovens aren’t much good for inhaling noxious fumes (unless you clean yours as seldom as I do), and toaster flexes weren’t designed for death by hanging. Though his suicide note is quite entertaining.
But Marcus (Tony Cox) is now out of prison, sort of apologising for his behaviour: “I was pussy blind, I’m ashamed!” he tells Willie in a diner. “You tried to murder me you little prick!” replies Willie.
We also get to meet Willie’s mom (Kathy Bates, wasted – in an actorly sense – but good) who looks like a sweet apple cheeked old lady playing Mother Christmas but is really a bewigged, tattoo-covered, foul-mouthed criminal who’s pet name for her son is Shitstick.
She attempts something approximating maternal affection: “you’re my shitstick and no one’s gonna mess with you on my watch” she says comfortingly, which gives us less experienced parents something to really aim for. And we get some Willie back story, as it tuns out “even when he was a baby he tried to butt fuck everyone”.
Mom is working at the children’s charity Giving City in Chicago in the run up to Christmas, and it’s she who has devised the plan to rob the charity of their donations on Christmas Eve. Stealing from a children’s charity is a bit much even for Willie, but it’s easier once he realises that charity boss Regent is already creaming off a huge proportion of the takings. So soon Willie, Mom and Marcus are once more dressed up in their festive garb, soliciting donations on the snowy streets.
Regent’s wife Diane (Christina Hendricks) is a sexually frustrated ex-drinker who naturally sees a kindred spirit in Willie, and soon he’s fucking her from behind up an alley and no that’s not a metaphor. (They are pretty compatible though it takes a few more al fresco sex sessions before she feels totally at home intoning the traditionally festive “FUCK ME SANTA” mantra.)
Mom has brought in Marcus to help, and he’s the focus of some very laboured race and size jokes, though I did enjoy the exchange between him and his date, who claims “I don’t even see height!”.
There are a few sweet moments. “I know you’re not THE Santa but you’re MY Santa” says Thurman which after spending much of the film sounding simply stupid reassured me I may have been right in the first review labelling him insightful if self-protecting, rather than deluded.
Once more Willie’s Santa has met his match in the children he meets, especially the little girl who only wants a penguin that doesn’t even have to be alive – a Wednesday Addams for the 21st century if ever I saw one.
There’s also a lovely scene where Thurman sings in a Christmas choir, which actually brought a tear to my eye for the right reasons. And Willie’s increasingly confused attempt to explain to Diane that he really appreciates the true spirit of the season – “I’m all about the birth of Christmas… the ejaculate conception” – is my new Christmas card message.
Do they succeed in their robbery? Well Willie has definitely gone soft, as it turns out that nowadays he can’t even shoot his own mother.
But despite sitting through this I’m not totally devoid of Christmas spirit myself, so I will of course sign off with a quote from the movie: “Merry fucking Christmas”. Let’s hope it’s a good one, without Bad Santa 3.
Watch the trailer for Bad Santa 2: