Blu-Ray Review – Bad Santa 2

Everybody’s favourite hard-drinking, womanising, misanthropic Santa is back. It took 13 years for the sequel to happen, and now it’s taken nearly a year for the Blu-Ray to come out in the UK (in the US they decided to quickly release it in February.) Was it worth the wait? it’s a case of “yes and no,” but certainly more of the former than the later.

The original film’s director, Terry Zwigoff, consistently turned down lucrative offers to direct the sequel for decades, and hasn’t directed a film in over a decade. Billy Bob Thornton only wanted to do it if the sequel felt right. He was his typical honest self when he said early on in the development phase that “we’re never gonna beat the first one, but you got to get as close as you can.” Tony Cox as Marcus and Brett Kelly as Thurman Merman are the only other two cast members who return for the sequel.

Mark Waters eventually stepped in to direct after the producers went through many directors, and it’s one of the films that was affected by those fat pieces of shit selling Miramax. Waters and his brother Daniel had their own run-ins with the Weinsteins over their film Vampire Academy. On paper Waters may not seem like the ideal choice, but he showed a knack for comedy in Mean Girls, and his brother Daniel wrote one of the greatest black comedies of all time, Heathers, so Mark must certainly be a bit warped himself.

The plot itself may not be the most imaginative: it’s kind of a rehash of bits of the original, but this time the screenwriters throw Willie’s (Billy Bob Thornton) mother into the mix. Early on she literally says “I don’t speak politically correct,” so you know what you’re gonna get. Kathy Bates is perfectly cast as the mother, and seems to be having a late-career resurgence, but mostly in television. She and Marcus get Willie to do a robbery of a Chicago charity on Christmas Eve, but of course Thurman shows up and nearly screws up everything.

One female critic really took against the film, and in her review said: “it doesn’t hate Christmas. It just hates women.” It’s a snazzy line, but it’s a completely over the top reaction to the filmmakers’ equal opportunity offender sense of humour—did she not see the original film? I imagine not, and the film came out mere weeks after Donald Trump won the US election, so I have a feeling many critics took out their anger about Trump on the film. It currently has 23% on the Rotten Tomatoes meter, which is probably the worst thing to ever happen to film criticism and it also means nothing. The film is deliberately politically incorrect, but unlike Trump or his supporters, it’s never mean-spirited.

Overall, Bad Santa 2 certainly passes the Mark Kermode 6 laugh count and then some, even though Kermode was one of the critics who lambasted the film, calling it the second worst movie of last year. I have the utmost respect for Kermode, but he was wrong (and it’s often said that he has a tin ear for comedy.) Then again, I’d watch Billy Bob Thornton as a piss-stained, drunk, womanizing Santa Claus over most things, so I’m probably a bit biased. Christina Hendricks adds a bit of heft to what on paper is a rather thankless role as one of the co-founders of the charity that Willy “interacts” with on more than one occasion.

The disc includes an “Extended Edition Too Rude For Cinemas.” I didn’t see any real difference between the two versions, but it’s been a year since I saw it in the cinema. The original theatrical cut is the one Mark Waters prefers, so it’s not some kind of raunchier “director’s cut.” It’s a clear case of a marketing ploy to sell more copies and connect to the infamous Badder Santa cut of the first film. The features are an insubstantial alternative opening and ending, some deleted scenes, gag reel and some pointless featurettes that play like trailers with interview soundbites thrown in.

★★★½

Ian Schultz

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