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Bad Santa 2 Review

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At the end of his tether, Willie Soke (Billy Bob Thornton) is roped into one last score with old partner/enemy Marcus (Tony Cox); his mother (Kathy Bates) and old pal Thurman Merman (Brett Kelly) both help and get in the way.

★★★★★

Picture the scene: a grimy alleyway, Billy Bob Thornton as Willie Soke dressed in his full Santa regalia, having his way with Christina Hendricks. On the surface, we’re firmly back in Bad Santa territory, where a sense of coarse is key, but something feels off. Exactly what is clarified by another sex scene later in the film. Instead of Hendricks, Thornton’s paired with comedian Jenny Zigrino’s security guard and only then does he get to indulge his penchant for being (how to put this?) an ass man, as he did with Lauren Graham in the original film.

The difference is this: Graham subverted her wholesome Gilmore Girls image, but with Zigrino there’s no such preconception. It lays bare the flaws in this film more than the makers could ever know. It's a neutered facsimile of the original.

It's a neutered facsimile of the original.

The first film earned its fanbase with its line in nasty gags, but the various writers and re-writers (who included the Coen brothers, adding to Terry Zwigoff rewrites of an already pungent script) also clearly understood the hateful, narcissistic mindset of the compulsive drunk. Here the booze is an add-on to some reheated gags about dwarfism et al that were tired in 2003. The culture around the sauce is different now, and this should give plenty of opportunities for Thornton’s Willie to find new things to hate — instead, he’s up against his mother, in one of the 21st century’s great missed opportunities. It could have been great: imagine the Willie of the first film, and then imagine him facing off against his progenitor as written by the writers of Ghost World and the Coens’ entire filmography. Sadly, this falls well short. Instead we're given lame scenes from novice writers who don't appear to have felt an iota of the parental hate they think they’re conveying.

Billy Bob — somehow looking younger than back in 2003, and almost salvaging this film with his nose for a sozzled one-liner — will never find a better character to display his flair for scumbag intelligence, and his weird elegance amongst the degradation does persist. It’s a pity the material doesn't match up because he, and his character, deserve better.

A photocopy of a photocopy, this could perhaps be the nadir of the wave of decade-too-late comedy sequels. Only Thornton completists, and hopeless nostalgists, need apply.