Back in 2003, Billy Bob Thornton’s foul-mouthed, alcoholic slob of a Santa delivered a gleefully offensive assault on festive pieties and political correctness in Terry Zwigoff’s deliciously dark black comedy Bad Santa. The result was bracingly transgressive. Thirteen years later, the shock long gone, sequel Bad Santa 2 doubles down on the offensiveness but misses out the glee.
In the original film, Thornton’s misanthropic character, Willie Soke, was actually a safecracker posing as a department store Santa in order to rob shops on Christmas Eve with the aid of his equally amoral, elf-sized sidekick Marcus (Tony Cox).
A decade or so later, Willie is every bit as drunken and disreputable as before, but when the unreliable Marcus tries to recruit him for another criminal enterprise he takes some persuading. His misgivings only increase when he learns that the scheme to rob a Salvation Army-like charity in Chicago requires him to don a Santa suit again and hit the streets as a bucket-toting volunteer on behalf of Christina Hendricks’ wealthy philanthropist
Yet a far worse discovery lies in store. The irredeemable crook that has hatched the planned heist is none other than Willie’s despised mother Sunny, played by a butch, heavily tattooed Kathy Bates.
Sadly, the people who have hatched Bad Santa 2 have no filial or other connection with the original film’s creators. Mean Girls director Mark Waters and screenwriters Johnny Rosenthal and Shauna Cross have taken over from Zwigoff and writers Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, but their efforts to reheat the first film’s raucous comedy prove as appetising as stale mince pies.
Having said that, the sequel’s best feature does turn out to be a warmed over repeat, with Brett Kelly adding sweetly daft charm as the 21-year-old version of his hopelessly naïve, tubby kid who uncovered Willie’s soft spot in the original film.
Certificate 15. Runtime mins