Alcoholic Willie Soke (Billy Bob Thornton) has just lost his job as a parking valet when he was distracted by a breastfeeding woman and crashed the car he was driving. With Christmas approaching, he feels there is one thing he can do; well, two, he could go back to his seasonal occupation as a Santa Claus, or he could commit suicide. He decides on option two, and sticks his head in the oven after turning it on, yet somehow has forgotten that it's not gas, it's electric, so is simply warmed from the neck up. Then he thinks hanging from the light fitting will be good, so tries that, but the dim kid he has known for ten years now, Thurman Merman (Brett Kelly), interrupts...
Quite why anyone thought a sequel to Bad Santa, Terry Zwigoff's cheerfully miserable black comedy of 2003, was a good idea was not apparent in Bad Santa 2, a film whose uncertainty proved fatal as far as not only the laughs but the point went. Presumably the original proving a hit on festive television among Christmas cynics every year since its release was the motive, but while that wasn't perfect by any means, it had an indie comedy sensibility that generated some decent chuckles and at least felt original, in an "It was what we were all thinking" kind of way, even if you never have found yourself thinking about Yuletide like that. But this was a bigger budget effort that missed the point.
If indeed it had any idea of what the point was, as it was difficult to tell, as it reduced the source to a hacky formula of bad taste, but never giving the impression it was even entertaining itself, never mind having the courage of its convictions for entertaining an audience. There may have been some who were amused, but that had to be because they hadn't seen the original in a while (or at all) and had forgotten that a mordant wit was what carried it through, something that was entirely missing here when it merely went for bad taste without the understanding of how to turn that into genuine humour. It wasn't painful to watch, necessarily, it just sat there, burbling with half-hearted jabs and complacent observations.
The idea that women would want to have sex with Willie was an element of those observations, that relations with this alcoholic loser were somehow hilarious and worth repeating, not getting any funnier the third time than the first (and naturally, nobody involved took their clothes off, because did this look like the sort of movie that demanded that kind of commitment?). The plot had our antihero travelling to Chicago with his old accomplice Marcus Skidmore (Tony Cox returned), the Bad Elf to the Bad Santa, where a heist on a charity had been set up by Willie's estranged mother Sunny (Kathy Bates). Thurman follows him in the hope he will give him that proper Christmas he wants and Willie shows no indication of being capable of, which was this film's idea of hilarious, but it was more numbing.
While in the Windy City, which is getting snowy, as Willie and Marcus pose as charity collectors for perfunctory swearing at small children gags, Willie starts an affair with one of his bosses, Diane, played by Christina Hendricks who was really too good for the material, but then you could argue they all were. Her running joke was that her ex-alcoholic status left her wanting sex in public places, and he is happy to oblige, yet this unspoken notion that suffering a serious addiction somehow made you cooler because you could see through the world's bullshit was a deeply unhelpful one, raising victimhood to the level of clarity of vision the film never justified. Illustrating how confused this turned out, we were supposed to feel the spirit of Christmas nonetheless in late on sentimental scenes that crunched gears with the nastiness, unsure if we were sending up Thurman's optimism against all reason demeanour (he was now autistic) or hoping it was justified. There was really no need for this sequel, it didn't serve as a reminder of a better original, purely that you should watch that instead. Music by Lyle Workman.
[Entertainment One's DVD has a bunch of featurettes and deleted scenes as extras, along with loads of trailers and TV spots for some reason.]