Fueled by cheap whiskey, greed and hatred, Willie teams up once again with his angry sidekick, Marcus, to knock off a Chicago charity - this time with his Mother leading the plan.
It's worth pointing out before delving any further into this review that I dug the original Bad Santa a lot; there was a genuine mean streak in it that was almost gleeful at points. That kind of how-far-can-you-push-it mentality served the film beautifully, as it came out of nowhere, having been semi-marketed as a Christmas caper. For every person that was offended by it, there were several others who'd consider it a cult classic - which it has dutifully become.
A sequel to such a cynical film feels odd to begin with, especially when you consider follow-ups to even the most mainstream of comedies have never worked particularly well. Yet here we are 13 years later as Willy continues his degenerate lifestyle, fails at a (double) suicide attempt and gets back into the thievery game - this time, targeting a charity.
In that respect, it's more of the same, really - with the exception that this time out, they're trying very, very hard to make it work... and it just doesn't. Original helmer Terry Zwigoff is replaced by Mean Girls' Mark Waters (we could've thrown shade there and said Vampire Academy's Mark Waters, but you catch our drift). Waters has been around the block enough times to know how to let a gag breathe, but the original came out before people could get collectively offended on Twitter. You get the impression the filmmakers know this and only, kind-of-sort-of dip their toe in the pool of crassness - whereas the original plunged headlong into it.
The added hook is that we get to meet Wille's ma, played by a game and entertaining Kathy Bates. There's no way you can have Billy Bob Thornton and Kathy Bates in a scene saying horrific stuff to each other and not have some of it stick; there are a handful of other funny moments (a line of kids telling 'Santa' what they want), but there simply isn't enough of them.
Look, say what you will about it, but the first film was genuine in its approach. Willie bordered on 'tragic' in a real way which left you actually feeling bad for him at points, only to be disgusted a few minutes later. Sure, characters need to grow and evolve - but Bad Santa 2 should've went balls-out either way and committed to it.