Comedy sequels have a rocky track record although there are great examples like Addams Family Values, A Very Brady Sequel and Neighbors 2. It’s an even bigger problem when so much time has past that the filmmakers don’t even remember what the original was about anymore (see Dumb and Dumber To). Bad Santa 2 has all new filmmakers so maybe they never really understood the original.
Bad Santa 2 gets off to a promising start with Willie (Billy Bob Thornton) narrating what’s happened since Bad Santa 1. He makes the point that there’s no such thing as a happy ending, or an ending at all, with which Franchise Fred completely agrees. He even vomits in the back alley again, although perhaps the film’s first mistake is dropping the title on screen long before the vomit. The title is supposed to come when he’s vomiting, people.
From there, Bad Santa 2 devolves into a series of one-liners trying way too hard to be offensive. Bad Santa may have had some memorable lines, but it wasn’t a jokey movie. It was more the tone of misanthropy in a Santa costume, not characters standing around exchanging insult humor.
Things Bad Santa 2 thinks will shock you into laughter: Jerking off to your mother, abortion, Willie’s mom (Kathy Bates) calling him sh*t stick, Instagramming pictures of tea bagging, talking about necrophilia, and Tinder because that’s current. These ideas are not organically naughty. This is not what naturally happens when you put criminals in Christmas. It’s what happens when screenwriters brainstorm and perhaps when actors improvise. The end credits overuse a joke that wasn’t funny once, but they show it several times.
Willie makes his love interest (Christina Hendricks) say “F*** me, Santa” so they can get the famous line in this movie. You do understand that’s a different joke than having Lauren Graham’s character have a genuine Santa Claus fetish, don’t you? They’ve also exaggerated Willie misunderstanding big words so he can say “The Ejaculate Conception” and confuse flouting with a sexual term. There is some ambiguous shoe fetish they talk about but never show is supposed to leave it to your imagination, but that’s no more clever than the bad jokes they did show.
Jokes about Marcus (Tony Cox)’s height are so tired. One character tells him to “take it up with the Lollipop Guild.” So there you go, 1939’s The Wizard of Oz, real edgy stuff. There’s also a line about cousins marrying which is old and lazy.
Thurman Merman (Brett Kelly) is no longer funny now that he’s an adult. It’s just sad that they have him making the same jokes about not understanding things. Also being mean to a 21-year-old is not the same as being mean to an innocent kid in an Christmas movie. They had a perfect out too, moving the film to Chicago, but they had Thurman follow Willie there to shoehorn him in even more!
They’ve lost the whole arc of mall Santa culture. Since this heist is to rob a charity, they have one scene of Willie collecting charity money on the street but they don’t even explore that culture. There is surely a whole industry of Salvation Army Santas they could have spoofed but they don’t. They have to throw in a side gig so Willie can have a scene with kids on his lap, and Kathy Bates can trip children.
The one street Santa scene has a very contrived bit where Willie beats up another Santa with manger dolls. It feels so self-consciously Christmas, like, “Can you believe it? He’s using the manger doll as a weapon! That’s supposed to be a holy artifact!”
It’s not much of a heist either. The original heist required Willie and Marcus to be undercover in the department store long term. This one has them get jobs as charity Santas, but ultimately all they have to do is shut off the power and the safe is easy.
It feels like the only new idea Bad Santa 2 had was a scene at Santa Con and they don’t even use that. There should be massive confusion with people mistaking innocent Santas for Willie, but it just ends in a confrontation in the center of an ice rink.
Also in the ensuing 13 years, movies went digital and a Bad Santa 2 shot on digital does not look the same as the first movie.
At least Thornton remembers that Willie is supposed to be a relentless misanthrope. He’s not given strong dialogue to support it but he stays in character. They also introduce all of Willie’s parental backstory as a way of explaining why he turned out this way, which would be ruining the mystique if any of this movie mattered by that point.
One of the last shots of Willie filling a stocking is kind of funny in the spirit of the original. That’s it. Bad Santa 2 is not funny and it’s painful to see them throw so much at the movie when none of it sticks. Audiences will not laugh and this means there won’t be a Bad Santa 3.