The irreverent Bad Santa broke all the politically correct rules and became a hit in an increasingly PC environment, introducing Billy Bob Thornton as Willie Soke, the ultimate unwilling hero. The alcoholic, abrasive safecracker found his heart in his relationship with bullied young boy, and while all of the expletive-laden banter may have elicited laughs, it was the character growth of Willie that led the original to succeed.
It took over a decade for a sequel to come, with Billy Bob Thornton stating in interviews that it had to be the right script for a follow-up to be done. And while the elements are in place for it to be a solid story, the execution is somewhat lacking. When we open the film, Willie is down-and-out, ready to end his life only to be interrupted by a now grown Thurman Merman (Brett Kelly) and a package of money with the promise of a new job. From there, Willie is reunited with Marcus Skidmore (Tony Cox), who tells him of a job in Chicago with an unnamed partner that turns out to be Willie’s estranged and fresh out of jail mother Sunny (Kathy Bates). The gig turns out to be the robbery of a charity, led by a recovering alcoholic (Christina Hendricks) and her philandering, embezzling husband (Ryan Hansen).
The film gives us more insight into how Willie became the miserable guy he is through his interactions with his mother, who admittedly was not the best influence. And mistrust rules supreme over Willie’s relationships with both Marcus and Sunny, while Thurman continues to be the only relationship that brings out his human decency.
While there are attempts at family bonding between Willie and Sunny, the moments often feel forced and it simply doesn’t deliver the heart that worked so well in the original.
While the film succeeds at delivering a wealth of too blue, politically incorrect zingers, they’re not as sharp as the original film, and Willie’s interactions with others don’t feel as fleshed out either. Hendricks in particular felt under-utilized and the pay off doesn’t feel as earned. There are laughable and quotable moments in the movie, but they are fewer and far between that the original, and it feels as though Bad Santa 2 underwhelms in the sequel that many had hoped for.