Behind every Bad Santa, there’s a Bad Mom. So runs the premise of this belated sequel to Terry Zwicks much-loved 2003 seasonal comedy.
Trading on same Xmasploitation that the horror genre has mined for decades - see Silent Night, Deadly Night, Black Christmas et al - Bad Santa gifted us a foul-mouthed, girl-chasing, soak in a jolly red suit, whose meanness was surpassed, but only just, by his cat-burgling accomplice Marcus (Tony Cox), a nasty little crook in an elf suit. The film was a one-joke movie but it was a pretty good joke.
The same gag is re-gifted for Bad Santa 2. It's not terrible, you think upon unwrapping, I guess I did need socks and soap.
As the film opens, Willie (Billy Bob Thornton’s deadpan deadbeat) is right back where he was 13 years ago: dead drunk, bottom-obsessed, and reluctantly embroiled in a scheme. Hence, Marcus and Willie arrive in Chicago, where, at the behest of Willie’s estranged badass mother (Kathy Bates), they plan to rob a charity. The organisation is run by good-natured reformed alcoholic Diane (Christina Hendricks) and her husband (Ryan Hansen), who, long before we discover he is banging his secretary and stealing from the organisation, might as well have jerk tattooed across his forehead.
Shenanigans ensue, but Willie’s bad behaviour is once again curtailed by the appearance of Thurman Merman (Brett Kelly, who gained 18kg to reprise the role), the little kid who followed him around like a puppy in the first film and, who, aged 21, continues to follow him around like a puppy.
There are some great potty-mouthed one liners ("I'm not a romantic but I gotta tell you, you've got gigantic titties") and Mean Girls director Mark Water wrings out plenty of ill-tidings from the material.
The thrill of novelty and oddness that defined the first film may be gone but Billy Bob's reaction shots remain a Christmas miracle, Tony Cox snarls with aplomb and Bates hasn't been so much fun since Adam Sandler was tied to her apron-strings in The Waterboy.
It all goes somewhere, if on autopilot. Try to look surprised.