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Bad Santa 2

November 23, 2016
Bad Santa 2

Some people, when they are young and stupid, go through a phase where they love to eat the spiciest chile peppers they can find, mostly just to show they can endure it. There’s no thought given to the flavor profile, or how the pungency of the chiles might integrate into the dish as a whole. No, it’s a pure assault by an overwhelming flood of capsaicin, with no more useful purpose than bragging rights.

Bad Santa 2 is a similar sort of endurance test, but with profanity instead of piquancy. This is not a raunch comedy so much as a crushing, artless flood of offense, without even the forced, garish whimsy of an Adam Sandler movie. It’s not that foul language and humor are automatically objectionable, but here they come at a torrential rate that most children outgrow by the end of middle school, with no point besides seeing how much you in the audience can take.

With the exception of a handful of cast, the production has nothing to do with the original Bad Santa. Willie Stokes (Billy Bob Thornton) is back, more miserable than ever. The cloying moppet, Thurman Merman (Brett Kelly), is still hanging around, but has not actually grown up in any sense but the physical. His eye-rolling naïveté, which was somewhat believable at eight, is still intact as he turns 21. But don’t worry; they make a wholly unconsidered autism joke to lampshade it.

Then Marcus (Tony Cox) shows up with a $2000 olive branch and an offer of a multi-million dollar heist in Chicago. It’s only after they arrive that Willie finds out the ringleader is his mother, Sunny (Kathy Bates), every bit the miserable misanthrope as Willie himself. They’re going to infiltrate a Salvation Army knockoff whose director (Ryan Hansen) embezzles most of the funds anyway and steal the cash from his safe during the Christmas concert.

Most of what passes for humor is just lazy stereotyping. Fat jokes, short jokes, racist jokes, sexist jokes, and probably more I’ve lost in the shuffle. Again, it’s not that any particular topic is forbidden, but the sheer boring clumsiness of the flood saps it of any entertainment value.

And of course, despite all his “I’m so terrible” moaning, the script reserves a place of honor for Willie’s spiteful, cynical self. He is the personification of the impulse to embrace and revel in labels like “deplorable”, and the movie rewards him for it. He complains at the outset about his lack of female attention, but with barely an effort on his part a security guard, a caterer, and the charity director’s wife, Diane (Christina Hendricks), throw themselves at him.

It’s Hendricks’ part that unwittingly gives provides the perfect microcosm for Bad Santa 2‘s failure. The first movie at least made an effort to set up Lauren Graham’s Sue as an actual character, and build her an admittedly dysfunctional relationship with Willie. It gave her a Santa Claus fetish, which was bizarre and absurd, but at least showed more effort than Diane’s simply rutting in an alley out of sheer self-hating perversion. And when Willie asks Diane to call him Santa, it’s a cheap, desperate attempt to call back to something that worked despite itself, and it goes over about as well as anything in this ill-conceived sequel.

Worth It: no.
Bechdel-Wallace Test: fail.

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