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|Bad Santa 2
dir Mark Waters
prd Andrew Gunn, Geyer Kosinski
scr Johnny Rosenthal, Shauna Cross
with Billy Bob Thornton, Kathy Bates, Tony Cox, Christina Hendricks, Brett Kelly, Ryan Hansen, Jenny Zigrino, Jeff Skowron, Cristina Rosato, Mike Starr, Christopher Tyson, Octavia Spencer
release US/UK 23.Nov.16
16/US Miramax 1h32
Holiday cheer: Thornton and Kelly
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E
It's been 13 years since Bad Santa surprised us: a deeply rude holiday comedy with a big heart and something darkly important to say. A sequel has been talked about ever since, and finally here we are, with three of the lead actors on board. But the screenwriters seem to miss the point, thinking that the vulgarity itself is the funny thing. Which leaves the moving feeling mean-spirited and dim-witted.
After his life of crime, Willie (Thornton) has settled in Phoenix and tried unsuccessfully to dodge the attentions of the sweetly naive Thurman (Kelly), who has just turned 21. Then Marcus (Cox) reappears, apologising for betraying him before and proposing an epic heist in Chicago. With nothing better to do, Willie goes along and is horrified to discover that his estranged mother Sunny (Bates) is organising the caper, which involves robbing a children's charity run by Diane (Hendricks) and her weaselly husband Regent (Hansen).
The plot consists of little more that a series of deeply contrived coincidences, as Thurman follows Willie to Chicago and inveigles himself into this makeshift family. Meanwhile, Willie woos Diane while Marcus goes after a sex-bomb security guard (Zigrino), and neither trusts Sunny. But of course the feeling is mutual, which sparks an endless string of gross-out gags and insults, raucous sex and messy criminal antics.
With his detached sense of humour, Thornton just about emerges with some dignity, even though he is required to stir sappy emotion into moments involving both Sunny and Thurman. The problem is that nothing remotely interesting happens to Willie, so there isn't anything Thornton can do to deepen the character. Bates, Cox and Kelly all play characters with plenty of promise, but they don't develop either. And Hendricks remains likeable enough to never quite appear like she's in the same movie as the rest of these chuckleheads.
Writers Rosenthal and Cross simply never bother to push any of these characters in an even remotely entertaining direction. There are some very funny moments along the way, so it's not a total loss. But the overall tone feels random and somewhat desperate, as if everyone was hoping that director Waters could make something of it in the edit. He does what he can, adding some jazz-riff pacing and colourfully rude asides. But when a script is as vacuous as this, there's not much holiday cheer on the cards. Thankfully, the originally is still a classic.
|R E A D E R R E V I E W S
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© 2016 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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