In 2003 “Bad Santa” took the image of the department store Santa and turned it upside down and inside out.
Your friendly neighborhood Santa was transformed from a saint to a sinner in a matter of 91 minutes, posing the question, “Do you really know the man behind red suit when you go to the mall?”
That single question not only made the film work, but it also caused it to gross more than $76 million at the box office. Unfortunately, its latest chapter, “Bad Santa 2,” struggles to find that humor.
The late comedian Robin Williams summed up this film perfectly in a line from his 2006 movie “Man of the Year.” Williams said, “If you tell a bad joke, you can put a laugh track over it – but the joke’s still not funny.” Bad Santa 2 is nothing but a bad joke.
The audience meets up with Willie Soke (Thornton) and his partner in crime Marcus Skidmore (Tony Cox) 13 years later. Soke's life has gotten even rougher than before and as he has fallen deeper into depression and booze.
Feeling that his life is over, Soke attempts to off himself but stops when he receives a letter from Skidmore. Skidmore, who is just released from prison, asks Soke to meet him. At the meeting, Skidmore convinces Soke to do one last heist with him. The job involves traveling to Chicago and breaking into the safe of a charity on Christmas Eve. Soke reluctantly agrees, and they plan out the heist.
There are times when sequels are necessary. Those films add to the original story giving the audience a new chapter to enjoy. “Bad Santa 2” is not that. It is Hollywood’s form of re-gifting something they don’t want. The movie features the same story with some minor changes minus the small amount of creativity the first film had.
What made the first film work on some level was the story had somewhat of a direction, and it had a strong cast. John Ritter and Bernie Mac helped to provide a balance in the first movie and kept Thornton’s over-the-top acting in check. However, with Ritter's death in 2003 and Mac’s in 2008, the filmmakers could not replicate the same balance and achieve that same success.
The first film also had some redeeming aspects to it. It showed that, despite all of his character flaws, Soke could be redeemed and had a heart. Despite years of conning people in scams Soke still had some humanity. Bad Santa 2 did leave that humanity in the editing room and traded it for some tasteless jokes instead.
The movie provides the audience with a lot of awkward moments. Bringing the character of Thurman Merman (Brett Kelly) back into the story provided a lot of that awkwardness. In the first film, Merman was the kid got the impression that Soke was the real Santa and palled around with Soke. As time went on, Merman would tell Soke of a personal problem he had — like the bullies that bet him up. Soke would then give him a solution with a funny result like teaching him how to box.
Merman’s childlike demeanor as an adult just comes across as creepy and just plain weird in “Bad Santa 2.” Also, Merman was never to be the main character in any film, only a supporting one. By placing this much attention on it bogs down the movie. Filmmakers should have taken a lesson from “The Hangover: Part III.” Merman like Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong) should never be the main character. He is good a few laughs in certain scenes, but that’s it.
This movie is one to be missed and forgotten. Bad Santa 2 now joins the ranks of sequels that should not have been made like “Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd,” “Evan Almighty” and “Blues Brothers 2000.” However, if you are dying to see this film, it will soon join these other unremarkable sequels in the bargain bin of your nearest retailer. I am sure that there will be plenty of copies available.
I give “Bad Santa 2” half of a mustache out of five.
This film is rated R for crude sexual content and language throughout, and some graphic nudity and runs 92 minutes.
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