Monday, November 28, 2016
FILM REVIEW OF ''BAD SANTA 2" (2016)
If you thought “Bad Santa” (2003) was a hoot, you’ll holler at “Bad Santa 2.” Like its vulgar, politically-incorrect predecessor, this rude, crude, lowest common denominator, gross-out sequel scrapes the bottom of the toilet for bowel humor that may make you gag. Oscar-winning Billy Bob Thornton of “Sling Blade” reprises his role as lascivious, blasphemous, alcoholic, safecracker Willy Soke, who masquerades as Santa Claus and listens to children’s gift requests on his lap. Nevertheless, despite its contrived, often predictable, by-the-numbers monkeyshines, “Bad Santa 2” (**** OUT OF ****) is an audaciously sidesplitting saga, with corrosive dialogue that may either incinerate your soul or prompt you to laugh with such vigor that you will cough at the same time. After a thirteen-year hiatus, not only has Thornton shown up for the sequel, but also teensy Tony Cox and chubby Brent Kelly have also returned respectively as Marcus and Thurman. Lest we forget, Oscar-winner Octavia Spencer of “The Help” appears briefly again as Opal the prostitute from the original. The latest character to wade into this cesspool of hilarity is Willy’s low-class, repugnant mother. Kathy Bates never stops surprising us as Sunny Soke, a sleazy, silver-tongued, ex-con wreathed with biker tattoos who wants to steal thousands of dollars. Sadly, Sunny has grown so decrepit she cannot control her Parkinson’s and requires somebody with steady fingers to crack a safe. Bates could easily have stolen “Bad Santa 2” with her outlandish portrayal. Instead, Brent Kelly steals the show as simple-minded moron Thurman Merman who keeps on obliviously weathering Willy’s vile torrents of profanity about his shortcomings. Miraculously, Kelly maintains a look of deadpan stupefaction throughout these rants that would have reduced a less disciplined actor to ripples of belly laughter. Indeed, “Mean Girls” director Mark Waters and freshman scenarist Johnny Rosenthal with “Whip It” writer Shauna Cross spurn good taste repeatedly.
“Bad Santa 2” opens with Willy (Billy Bob Thornton of “Fargo”) admitting that his life has been a travesty. He never succeeds for one reason or another with his suicide attempts. He is dangling from a ceiling lighting fixture when Thurman, the grown-up kid from the original movie (Brett Kelly of “Unaccompanied Minors”), strolls into his apartment and cannot fathom what Willy is doing. Eventually, Willy abandons all efforts to hang himself, chiefly after Thurman empties a bag of money onto his table. As it turns out Willy’s treacherous, accomplice from the first film, the vertically-challenged Marcus Skidmore (Tony Cox of “Beetlejuice”), has invited Willy to join him at a local restaurant so they can discuss business. Of course, Willy doesn’t trust Markus because the latter tried to murder him in the original. Marcus hasn’t been out of prison long, and he needs the money. He explains that Willy’s mom has a plan to rob a high-profile, Chicago-headquartered charity that will bulge their pockets with loot. Eventually, Willy meets his estranged mother, Sunny (Kathy Bates of “Misery”), again. She briefs him about the heist. You’d think any reunion between mother and son would be a joyous, sentimental occasion, but it is far from it. Willy has no fond memories of his mom. We learn during one of their conversations that Willy took a fall for her at age eleven and did time for Sunny’s crime. She confirms in her own words what an unfit mom she was. Sunny cherishes the memory of Willy’s birth: “Hell, I didn’t even know I’d given birth until I’d tripped over him.” Willy sidesteps old animosities and pitches in with them to rip off the children’s charity. As it turns out, a well-to-do married couple who are for all practical purposes estranged conduct the charity. The charity resembles the Salvation Army. Diane Hastings (Christina Hendricks of “Drive”) and her husband Regent (Ryan Hansen of “G.I. Joe: Retaliation”) make it easy to contribute to the cause. You can text your donation to it! What Diane doesn’t realize is Regent is cheating on her with another employee. Initially, Willy is not pleased that he must don a Santa Claus suit and solicit donations on the street. At one point, he clashes with another Santa who claims that Willy has stolen his spot. The two tangle on the curb, and Willy lands in jail. Diane has the police release him and she allows Willy to keep his Santa gig if he will accompany her to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. Reluctantly, for the sake of Sunny and Marcus, Willy follows her, and the two become sexually involved with each other. Meantime, Willy doesn’t entirely trust his murderous, old nemesis Marcus. Remember, Marcus tried to kill Willy in the original “Bad Santa.” Sunny convinces Willy to let bygones be bygones. If things weren’t tense enough for Willy, he discovers that Thurman has embarked on a journey to search for and surprise him. Now, Willy must contend with this clueless klutz who wants nothing more than to make him sandwiches. He arranges for Thurman to lose his virginity to Olivia. Before she can accommodate him, Thurman flees in abject terror.
Basically, “Bad Santa 2” regurgitates the same essential plot of the original, but it delivers greater volumes of profanity and sexuality than the former. The F-word is used 180 times here rather than 130 in the original. Meaning, the raunchy “Bad Santa 2” lives up to its R-rating “for crude sexual content and language throughout, and some graphic nudity.” Waters and his two writers have exercised such an extreme lack of good taste that “Bad Santa 2” qualifies as a guilty pleasure. Incidentally, the filmmakers do refrain from depicting murder this time around. You may cringe in retrospect that you sank to such shallow depths of the sake of rib tickling glee. Some of Sunny’s lines will keep you to cackling. If you indulge in this nonsense, your demented soul will crave the prank in the end credits. Unlike any other movies showing now, “Bad Santa 2” may provide you with some desperate relief from all the Yuletide cheer.