Fueled by cheap whiskey, greed and hatred, Willie Soke (Billy Bob Thornton) teams up with his angry little sidekick, Marcus (Tony Cox), to knock off a Chicago charity on Christmas Eve. Along for the ride is chubby and cheery Thurman Merman (Brett Kelly), a 250-pound ray of sunshine who brings out Willie’s sliver of humanity. Mommy issues arise when the pair are joined by Willie’s horror story of a mother, Sunny Soke (Kathy Bates), who raises the bar for the gang’s ambitions, while somehow lowering the standards of criminal behavior.
If you would like to read a review of Bad Santa, click here. The first Bad Santa was noteworthy back in 2003 as it was a Christmas film unlike most as it avoided the usual sentiment that makes people sick of Christmas films. It took what we knew about them and took it into more of an over-the-top, crass, offensive direction, and went against the norms. The film was definitely for people who don’t like Christmas films which made it my favorite Christmas film. For the longest time, it looked like there would never be a sequel but as long as there’s Christmas, there will be Christmas films and people who don’t like them.
If you haven’t seen the original Bad Santa (which is likely 13 years later), you’re probably fine as characters from the original may remain but references are kept at a minimum. The film starts off with Willie (Thornton) down on his luck. He’s alone and he can’t keep a job because of his behavior and drinking. After all this time, Willie hasn’t changed. When he couldn’t take it anymore, he couldn’t even do that right. After an intervention by Thurman (Kelly), Willie is given new hope when he is reunited with his old partner Marcus (Cox). After all this time, their relationship hasn’t changed with Willie still making fun of his size. He is still skeptical of Marcus when he is offered a new job, to rob a Chicago charity on Christmas Eve.
Little did Willie know, this job would involve his estranged mother Sunny (Bates). Early on, we can tell that she is Willie’s mother as they are very similar people, especially when she begins to insult Marcus for his size. Because Willie doesn’t trust her after their past, he initially doesn’t want to work with her but the family subplot goes predictably. Getting further insight into the Soke family was interesting although the film could have gone further with it. Sunny was a worthy addition to the team and it was nice to see her and Willie together and she did not take any extra focus away from Willie and Marcus.
In order to rob the charity, they had to contend with the charity’s director named Diane Hastings (Christina Hendricks). To infiltrate the charity, the three would have to pose as volunteers. Things were not going well for Diane and her husband Regent (Ryan Hansen) which led her to look to Willie to fill the void. Diane liked to maker herself look like a pure and virtuous person so it only took some time with Willy to bring out her darker side. Paranoid about her relationship with Willie, Regent tasked a bumbling security guard named Dorfman (Jeff Skowron) to look into them.
Now it wouldn’t quite be a Bad Santa film without Thurman Merman (still one of the best names). He only gets better with age. He seems even more clueless and oblivious now which is still entertaining to watch. With his older age, he got more opportunities to interact with more people and we got to learn more about him, including the fact that he can sing (no spoilers though). Willie thought he had gotten rid of Thurman (which obviously wasn’t the case and why would it), Thurman still has a hold on him for whatever reason and they grew closer.
The story is rather predictable but that’s okay since it was more about the journey than the destination. Willie, Marcus, and Sunny and also Thurman were fun to watch. Just them being themselves was great. Willie was being his unusual unpredictable self. Marcus was a little more reigned in and just wanted to make up for lost time after having been in prison. Sunny wanted to reconnect with her son the only way she knew how. What they all had in common was that they wanted the money.
The humor should not come as much of a surprise to those who have seen Bad Santa. There is quite a lot of language here and can also be very offensive to some. Most it of it is predictable such as Marcus’ height or Thurman’s mental problems which was okay. Sometimes it feels like they may be trying too hard and just saying these things just for the sake of saying them, making the writing feel lazy but there’s just something about it that works here.
It works because of Thornton, Cox, and Bates. Thornton was amazing here as the cynical, sarcastic, and belligerent Willie. He was still hilarious in his mostly deadpan delivery and it is still hard to imagine anyone other than Thornton at the helm. Cox was still serviceable as a counterbalance and his chemistry with Thornton was just as great here but here he had to counter Willie and Bates’ Sunny. Just like the previous film, his many one-liners were funny. Bates’ Sunny stole a lot of scenes with her many one-liners and she and Thornton were dynamite together. Kelly was good as Merman and his unwavering performance is commendable. Hendricks was good too despite not having much to do.
Overall, this was another great, offensive anti-Christmas film with another excellent performance by Thornton.