Perhaps there is a point to Bad Santa 2: it proves, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that some films just weren’t made for sequels. The truth is, the original 2003 comedy was a low-cost, high-return box office smash-hit, watched every December alongside cult classics like National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, Die Hard and Home Alone. So a sequel was always a possibility.
Throw in a 13-year, nostalgia-boosting gap between films and even I was excited when the posters for part two went up. But in the end, Lorelai Gilmore, aka Lauren Graham, isn’t the only thing missing. Bad Santa 2‘s got no heart.
It doesn’t help that the original movie’s two biggest personalities, John Ritter and Bernie Mac, both died between filming. Then again, that’s not Bad Santa 2‘s biggest problem. The truth is it’s lazy. Painfully so. It’s got the same soundtrack. Fine. It’s Christmas. But the gags are all the same, only darker and less sincere, without any of the same charm and personality.
Sure, Bad Santa is dark and twisted, but essentially, it’s about three lonely, broken people who find each other and form a bizarre, unlikely family unit. They stand up for each other and give each others’ lives meaning.
And while some fans thought Graham’s uncharacteristically adult turn as sexy love interest “Sue” cheapened the memory of sweet, virtuous Lorelai Gilmore, I disagree. She’s just as likable and endearing, and her touching interactions with sweet-but-simple kid of the family, Thurman Merman – played by Canadian part-timer Brett Kelly – help tick the feelgood “Christmas movie” box. In contrast, part two has none of the same emotional depth. There are no layers. There is no magic. Just a score.
Thurman’s role is sadder this time around as well. In the first film he’s a clueless eight-year-old that gets taught a few tricks by his reluctant, alcoholic new dad Willie T. Soke (Billy Bob Thornton). And by the end, he’s well on his way to becoming a better, more functional human being. But instead, he seems to have regressed since part one, and you can only imagine how horrible and miserable his life has been for the past 13 years – with no one to make sandwiches for.
Even Bad Santa 2‘s heist is uninspiring. It’s lazily written and a poor excuse to bring back the world’s worst mall Santa and his double-crossing elf henchman Marcus Skidmore (Tony Cox). In fact, everything about Bad Santa 2 feels forced and painfully unfunny. Everyone’s SO ugly and mean to each other, and all attempts to recreate the redeemingly sentimental feel of the first film fall flat. Bad Santa is an anomaly. A dark, black comedy that starts out filthy yet, somehow, turns into a sweet, redemption-championing Christmas classic. No matter what he does in the original, you like Willie. This time, you couldn’t care less.
The biggest shock, however, is Mad Men‘s Christina Hendricks’ turn as sexy love interest 2.0 “Diane.” Whereas Graham’s sex scenes are natural, alluring and cute, Hendricks’ seem forced and awkward, and they’re so sudden you can’t quite believe what you’re seeing. In fact, her character is so 0.5 dimensional you can only imagine the paycheck it must have taken to get Hendricks to sign on.
Finally, Kathy Bates is flat-out vile as Willie’s ironically named mother Sunny, and Cox’s zombie-eyed, rehashed performance sums Bad Santa 2 up perfectly. In short, it’s a bad, bad movie and a massive disappointment. I’ll probably still watch Bad Santa next Christmas, even though its memory has been tarnished, but I’ll never watch Bad Santa 2 again. Instead, I’ll just pretend it doesn’t exist.