Sam Reynolds ’18 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
2003’s Bad Santa has become somewhat of a cult classic throughout the years. Renowned for its vulgar and brutally nihilistic humor that makes it stick out like a sore thumb in the commonly cheery and feel-good array of Christmas classics. So it’s only natural that it be the next in a long line of nostalgic films to get a sequel far after the original’s release, reuniting old casts in an attempt to strike the same chemistry twice and run to the bank on the reliability of a devoted fanbase.
But, in this case, there’s actually a catch. Since the original Bad Santa, a lot has changed in America. PC culture runs rampant, internet memes control everyone’s life, and stories are considered lightweight if the main character isn’t a complex anti-hero. So, in many ways, a movie as offbeat and edgy as Bad Santa seems like it could actually deserve a swing at a modern update, as all the key ingredients for relevancy in today’s world are there on paper.
For better and for worse, Bad Santa 2 almost entirely avoids any and all of this and instead is just an excuse to get the gang back together to insult each other for an hour and a half, bringing the same quick writing and shock humor of the original. Aside from a sharp jab delivered by Kathy Bates when she says, “I don’t speak PC. If you have a problem, take it up with the Lollipop Guild,” to the returning Tony Cox—which is one of the dozens of jokes about Cox’s height—the filmmakers leave the social commentary at the door, and let the offensive humor do all the talking against what viewers can only assume they see as the sensitive skin of today’s youth.
The story of Bad Santa 2 is paper thin, but it’s not as if it cares. Billy Bob Thornton’s Willie is, once again, alone since the events of the first film and living a pointless existence, drinking his way through each day. As he is about to kill himself, a 21-year-old Thurman Merman (Brett Kelly), now an utterly naïve and obese man-child as opposed to the cute and pudgy sidekick of the first film, cluelessly interrupts to inform him that his old partner-in-crime, Marcus (Tony Cox), has a new robbery job for him. The film lazily flies through the exposition of the first film to get audiences up to speed and to Chicago, where Willie is tricked into working with his much loathed, foul-mouthed mother (Kathy Bates) to rob a charity.
The rest plays out as expected: terrible people doing terrible and obscene things with little to no likability other than the shocking remarks that fly out of their mouths. There’s a lot of sex, a lot of racism, and a lot of swearing, as the writers make their characters say and do everything possible to garner a chuckle of disbelief. Bad Santa 2 definitely stands out against any other film this season, simply for its unapologetic vulgarity and insensitivity that can only be rivaled by certain television programs nowadays.
Though there is little to no point for this film’s existence, the cast is clearly having a ball digging into each other’s skin, and the chemistry of the original is still there. The jokes range from genuinely clever and shocking to immature and lowball—a couple unfortunate pee jokes—but the movie isn’t trying to be anything it isn’t.
Though there are better and more complex figures of depression to risk following—a certain animated horse comes to mind—this is fun escapism that fans of the original and newcomers alike can laugh at for 90 minutes without fear of getting dirty looks or lectured.
In this regard, Bad Santa 2 is an unflinching loyalist to the comedy genre, something desperately needed in such a turbulent and uncertain time. And the best part is, it’s completely okay with the audience’s appreciation going unspoken. It doesn’t like all that feeling stuff anyway.
Overall Grade: B
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