Happy holidays, everyone! That means it’s time for Christmas movies, whether they be crap, meh, or good. And boy, do I have a Christmas movie to review! Well, this and Office Christmas Party, but that’s another time.
Everyone’s got their own favorite Christmas movie. Some have It’s A Wonderful Life (sadly I have vague memories of it, so I can’t say much on that), some have A Christmas Carol (any version, so take your pick), some have Home Alone (even Home Alone 2, though not the later ones, seriously does anyone like 3-5? yes, there’s a FOURTH and FIFTH Home Alone), some have National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (an annual tradition of watching it with my family every Christmas for a time) and some even have Die Hard 1-2 (yes, they are Christmas movies, that’s a fact, and don’t you DARE say otherwise). Me, my favorite Christmas movie is Bad Santa.
Ever since I was a teenager, I’ve loved Bad Santa. It was raunchy, crude, well-written, well-directed, well-acted, and most importantly, it was FUNNY. There are so many moments in that movie that are so hilarious, and even heartfelt, that it’s no wonder that it’s as much of a holiday classic as any other. It may seem like a product of its time at some moments, but at the same time it has gotten better with age. While the original theatrical release was satisfying, the unrated version is better because it adds more in the sense that it’s complimentary, it enhances the movie, like the special editions of the first two Alien movies, not feeling like missing pieces added in sometime after the theatrical release that would’ve given the movie better context, unlike certain other movies done today that do that bullshit practice.
When I heard talks of a sequel being made, of course my initial reaction was excitement. Then as time passed, I got older, and not much was being done at the time, I became less enthused about it and even thought maybe it’d be best if it wasn’t made, because chances are it may not be as good as the original or even be able to stand on its own. The original had a complete beginning, middle, and end, all concrete, leaving little to no room for a sequel, though it’d be tricky to do it, just not impossible. Then I saw the trailer, which got me a little excited, and then I saw the movie, and now I just feel “meh” about it. There were already some warning signs it wasn’t gonna be much good, not just from the trailer. Terry Zwigoff, the director of the first movie, didn’t return; John Requa and Glenn Ficarra, the original writers, didn’t return; not even the Coen brothers returned to produce this movie like they did the original, which honestly, makes sense given it did feel like a Coen brothers movie of sorts. John Ritter and Bernie Mac were dead (may they rest in peace). Only 4 of the original actors returned, that being Billy Bob Thornton, Tony Cox, Brett Kelly, and even Octavia Spencer (not to be critical or anything, but would anyone even care that her character returned in this? she was only in the first movie for like 5 minutes; this must be for the paycheck, especially since she’s an Oscar winner now, but being here for the paycheck must be everyone’s excuse for being in this movie, and I think that conversation between her and Thornton about her fee for having sex with Thurman is a metaphor for that). Even Billy Bob Thornton, the star of both the previous film and the new one, said this one wasn’t going to be as good as the first. So, really, what was accomplished? Practically a dud, if nothing else, not “bad” per se, but not good either.
The more I think about it, Nostalgia Critic’s review of A Christmas Story 2 comes to mind in regards to this movie (though I give this holiday sequel more credit than that holiday sequel, or really ANY other holiday sequel, though it’s still bad; also, I’d make a recurring gag of saying”first movie” like he did, but if I did then this review would be much longer). Basically, this movie is a repeat of the first, only more shallow and lazy. Heck, the humor in this movie isn’t so much raunchy, or even offensive if you’re not comfortable with this type of humor, as it is, well, “easy”. That’s the best way to describe it. The jokes in this movie are just so easy to make or see coming, and yes I’m not one to talk in regards to this. Sex jokes, boob jokes, dick jokes, race jokes, midget or dwarf jokes, handicap jokes, alcohol jokes, fat jokes, vagina jokes, and just about every kind of joke ever deemed crude, raunchy, offensive, and whatever else, this movie has all of that and then some, and at first it may seem funny, but it may just be a natural reaction due to it happening so fast, because once it’s over and you start thinking about it, it wasn’t really that funny to begin with. Isn’t that what shock humor is? All these jokes you’ve probably seen in other movies similar to this one, even the original Bad Santa, though at least that movie had good pacing, character development, and other things that helped balance everything out, which this movie has none of. It’s trying to be shocking, but it’s just too lazy to even do that.
Humor isn’t the only thing that this movie is trying to rehash from the first. There’s also the plot. It’s like the first movie, only with little twists and adjustments here or there. All they do is move the location from Phoenix to Chicago (where there’s snow this time around!), have some shenanigans, and pretty much ends similar to the first one, only I think a bit worse. Sure, they kinda change up the formula a bit by adding in Willie’s mom (played by Kathy Bates), and some other stuff here or there, but yeah this is just another one of those types of sequels that just simply rehashes the original and does little to nothing else.
I think there should be a rule that if the main character’s girlfriend, wife, significant other, partner, whatever, from the first installment, doesn’t return in the next, it’s the first sign that the movie is gonna be crap. I can’t help but notice this trend in bad sequels, especially in bad comedy sequels. Maybe it’s because Lauren Graham was too busy working on the Gilmore Girls revival to do it or she saw the script for this movie and preferred to do Gilmore Girls instead anyway (btw I haven’t watched Gilmore Girls, but I’d probably rather watch that than this, though that might go without saying).
It’s fitting that the movie starts with Willie (played by Billy Bob Thornton) pissing on a photo taken of his time in the first movie, because if that’s not this movie literally pissing on the first one, then I don’t know what is. Then he tries several times to kill himself, like putting his head in the oven before backing out of it, and then trying to hang himself. It’s meant to be played for laughs, and it’s not funny, not because it’s offensive or insensitive, but it just feels lazy here, as well as a rehash of his suicide attempt in the first movie. Here’s the thing with that, though: in the first movie, it kinda made sense why he was trying to kill himself, because he was sick of feeling like a failure and events playing out like they were in that movie, and he found a purpose to live again by being Thurman’s friend. In this movie, though, he’s just killing himself because he’s made his life shitty again by becoming an alcoholic and sex addict again, as well as his girlfriend breaking up with him (and again, she’d rather be doing Gilmore Girls than this shit). Speaking of his life being shitty again, how did it get like this? There’s really not much of an explanation for it, even by Willie himself, basically saying “shit happens”. At the end of the first movie, he had as much of a happy ending as he could get, sure he was shot and in the hospital, but he was alive and made a sensitivity counselor for the Phoenix police, his cohorts got sent to jail, and Thurman became more confident and happy because of Willie. Having Willie in this situation here just shows how little effort there is in trying to advance his character and whatever story there is to continue from the first.
Then Thurman (played by Brett Kelly) shows up, oblivious to the suicide attempt, and inadvertently gets Willie down. Yeah, Thurman is pretty much an idiot in this movie, even more stupid than in the first one, and is the movie’s way of using every single kind of mental retardation joke they could think of. Again, it’s not so much offensive as it is lazy, and this results in not being funny. Maybe a little chuckle, but that’s about it. It was charming, sweet, and endearing in the first movie, since he was a little kid and came off as mostly naive yet somewhat aware, but he’s grown up now, he oughta have at least some intelligence and know better, and repeating gags from the first movie with him aren’t really funny here, they’re just stupid and lazy.
Marcus (played by Tony Cox) shows up to make amends to Willie and to propose a new heist opportunity, but it’s clear from the get-go that this a revenge plot in disguise, and of course this is made clear by the end of the movie when they play out the betrayal after the heist, just like in the first movie. They go to Chicago and it’s revealed they’re robbing a charity, but really they’re robbing the asshole in charge of the charity (played by Ryan Hansen; is it just me or is this guy contracted to play a douchenozzle in almost everything he’s in?) who’s really taking portions of the money and putting in an account in the Caymen Islands or something. Also he has an affair with his secretary behind his wife’s ( played by Christina Hendricks) back and does weird things with shoes, which thankfully they don’t show. Willie doesn’t like that they’re robbing a charity and that he’s working with his mom Sunny while doing it, but relents when tells Marcus to cut her out of the deal when it’s over.
Once when Thurman shows up, having followed Willie from Phoenix to Chicago like a creepy stalker that’s played for laughs (though really it’s not so much creepy as it is stupid, but I bet someone would find this creepy, because this kid isn’t 8 like in the first, he’s 21, and they openly state his age as such because this movie takes place in the 13 years since the first), it’s basically the first movie again, only like I said before, more shallow and lazy. Don’t believe me? Here’s the bullet points:
-Willie is an alcoholic, foul-mouthed, sex-addicted asshole? Check
-Willie and Marcus have an antagonistic relationship that culminates in betrayal near the end? Check
-Willie having an affair with a hot lady that tries to help him out? Check (only difference here is that it’s more obvious she’s trying to help him and she’s married, though to an asshole)
-The manager being suspicious of Willie and having his head of security investigate him? Check
-Willie getting shot and put in the hospital near the end? Check (difference here is that it’s his mom that shoots him and Thurman too, the latter getting shot in the ass)
-Opening scene of Willie puking outside a bar in an alley? Check
I keep saying this movie is a shallow and lazy repeat of the first, and with good reason. As if it couldn’t be more annoying, the movie ends with Willie and Thurman supposedly living in a homeless shelter, so they’re now in a worse spot than at the end of the first movie and even at the beginning of this movie, and then Willie goes to the hospital where Marcus is lying on a bed, suffering from his injuries of getting shot and run over by Sunny, where Willie proceeds to teabag Marcus as revenge for doing it to him, and the credits show pictures of the teabagging (I’m hoping they’re fake), as a perfect way to sum up how this movie felt like it was teabagging me and others all the way through while watching it.
I’ll admit, there are some good things in it. The cast, especially Thornton and Bates, are pretty funny in their roles and how they play off each other, even having some nice bonding moments. Heck, I could even buy them being mother and son, despite her being 7 years older than him in real life (the movie states she had him when she was 13, so it at least provides an explanation), because if Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade can pull off Sean Connery playing Harrison Ford’s dad, despite being 12 years older than him, then even this movie could pull off the same idea. Thornton has shown over the years he’s capable of being dramatic, funny, and both. So has Bates, and this movie is no exception in regards to this. I daresay that one thing this movie has over the original are the moments in which the heist is discussed and how they’ll carry it out, with jazz music you’d hear in other heist movies like the Ocean’s Trilogy and Ant-Man, because in the first movie all they basically did was rob malls while pretending to be a Santa and elf, and so far as actual planning of the heist all was shown was Marcus turning off camera monitors and alarms, and then when Willie got to the safe, he’s barely prepared for it and even says it’d take a while, despite being a safecracker.
Honestly, I don’t know what more I could say at this point. This movie does the bare minimum. It’s not the worst movie I’ve ever seen, heck considering what other bad movies came out in 2016, I don’t think it’s even the worst movie of 2016. But it’s probably the worst I’ve seen so far, because like I said before, it’s shallow, lazy, and “easy”. It hardly puts any effort in it. Even other movies that I saw in 2016 that I felt “meh” towards had more effort put into em. Yes, X-Men: Apocalypse and even Ghostbusters: Answer the Call had more effort than Bad Santa 2. They might’ve had effort and focus in the wrong areas at times, but they’re still more entertaining than this. I will say though that it’s not as bad as two of my worst movies of 2015, Point Break 2015 and Fan4stic, because it’s not trying to piss me off so much as it is trying to bore me.
After seeing Deadpool, my favorite movie of 2016, and yes I will get to reviewing that soon, I think this movie is the polar opposite of that. While Deadpool did have a plot that was formulaic and generic, it had many twists and turns to keep it fresh, funny, and entertaining, plus the creators behind the movie knew what they were doing and were trying to be as authentic to the source material as possible and also being a good movie at the same time. This movie is just a repeat and makes you appreciate the original more, like a lot of other bad sequels. The only way things could get “badder” from here is if they try to make it a franchise and subject it to direct-to-video garbage, which I don’t think even this series deserves and I hope that doesn’t end up being the case.
Bad Santa 2 may be frightful, but at least the original Bad Santa is still delightful.