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By Sarah Ward
November 23, 2016
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Bad Santa 2

Sloppy and uninspired, this is the cinematic equivalent of asking for a pony and getting a photo of one instead.
By Sarah Ward
November 23, 2016
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No one likes receiving the same Christmas gift twice, but when it comes to festive-themed films and their sequels, that's typically what you get. Unfortunately, Bad Santa 2 doesn't escape that trap. Back in 2003, the original film prove a rude, crude blast of fresh air that flouted and took the piss out of yuletide clichés. By comparison, the long-awaited follow-up plays like a half-arsed version of the exact same thing.

For Willie Soke (Billy Bob Thornton), that means drinking, brawling, swearing, screwing, stealing, scamming, cracking safes and soaking in his own urine, usually while dressed up as Father Christmas. He's reluctant to return to the red coat and wig, but he's also eager to pilfer whatever cash he can when Christmas rolls around — 'tis the season to be burgling, and all that. That's why he agrees to re-team with his duplicitous, diminutive former partner-in-crime Marcus (Tony Cox), trading an unsuccessful suicide attempt for a scheme to fleece a Chicago charity. That the third person in their thieving plans is his estranged ex-con mother (Kathy Bates) complicates matters considerably.

Add a lustful love interest (Christina Hendricks), plus a well-meaning but dim-witted hanger-on (Brett Kelly), and the Bad Santa formula everybody knows and once loved is back in action. Alas, with original director Terry Zwigoff (Ghost World) and writers Glenn Ficarra and John Requa (Crazy, Stupid, Love) nowhere in sight — replaced by Mean Girls' helmer Mark Waters, first-time feature screenwriter Johnny Rosenthal and What to Expect When You're Expecting scribe Shauna Cross — Bad Santa 2 rides its sleigh straight into tired territory.

If there's a cinematic equivalent of asking for a pony and getting a photo of one instead, Bad Santa 2 is it. Everything looks the part, but this follow-up is no substitute for the real thing. Instead of humour steeped in the dark side of the season — be it the rampant consumerism, the gnawing loneliness or the manufactured cheer — this sloppy second effort just dials up the obscenity and anti-social behaviour, then tops the tree with familial drama. Indeed, in trying to coast by with little more than a predictable premise, easy gags, outrageous situations, unlikeable characters and a late splash of sentimentality, Bad Santa 2 could be mistaken for one of the poor imitators that the first movie inspired.

At least Thornton is on hand to do what he does best. If nothing else, the been there, done that air and apparent lack of effort suits his bad protagonist to the wearied, wise-cracking bone. Accordingly, when a handful of the script's grossly inappropriate jokes land, Thornton is usually the reason.

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