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With: Billy Bob Thornton, Kathy Bates, Tony Cox, Christina Hendricks, Brett Kelly, Ryan Hansen, Jeff Skowron, Jenny Zigrino, Cristina Rosato, Octavia Spencer, Mike Starr
Written by: Johnny Rosenthal, Shauna Cross, based on characters created by Glenn Ficarra, John Requa
Directed by: Mark Waters
MPAA Rating: R for crude sexual content and language throughout, and some graphic nudity
Running Time: 92
Date: 11/23/2016

Bad Santa 2 (2016)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Lost Claus

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The original Bad Santa (2003) is a comic masterpiece, settling in on just the perfect tone for its dark, vulgar humor. But this sequel feels like a too-little, too-late attempt to recapture some faded glory.

In Bad Santa 2, which is set a decade after the events of Bad Santa, safe cracker Willie Soke (Billy Bob Thornton) is still having trouble holding onto an honest job, and still drinks too much. His old partner in crime, Marcus (Tony Cox), appears. He wants a truce, and has a job offer. They will put on their Christmas outfits once again and rob a crooked charity organization in Chicago.

Willie reluctantly agrees, but is nonplussed when he discovers that his nasty, estranged mother (Kathy Bates) is also in on the scheme. To make matters worse, the grown Thurman Merman (Brett Kelly), who considers Willie his family, suddenly shows up as well. The thieves then face a set of comical hurdles, as well as possible betrayals, before they can get to their prize.

Neither director Terry Zwigoff, co-writers Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, nor Joel and Ethan Coen, who produced the original as well as contributing uncredited rewrites to the screenplay, returns to this follow-up. The director is now Mark Waters (Vampire Academy, Just Like Heaven, etc.), and his flat handling of the material simply can't uncover any comedy gold.

Moreover, while Willie Soke (Billy Bob Thornton) was hilarious in the original, it's now ten years on, and his drinking is no longer funny; it's rather sad. Willie's former bond with Marcus (Tony Cox) is now strained, though he does share some warm moments with the now-grownup kid (Bretty Kelly). And, weirdly, Oscar-winner Kathy Bates provides some moments of acting brilliance in her role as Willie's awful, tattooed, buzz-cut mother.

Overall, it has a couple of chuckles here and there, but the lackluster Bad Santa 2 will be on very few holiday wish lists.

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