Plot: What’s it about?
Holiday movies are hit or miss and it’s been a while (13 years since this writing) that we’ve seen Billy Bob Thornton don the santa suit. He’s played Davy Crockett, George W. Bush (sort of) and other assorted characters, but it’s odd he might be remembered for playing an alcoholic, safe cracking Santa. Weird how life works, isn’t it? Truthfully it’d been a long time, like circa 2004, since I’d seen Bad Santa. My wife had never seen it and, while on a vacation in Florida, we decided to give it a watch. Thornton has been called “the only one who could play this part” when it came to his role in the film and I’m apt to believe it. Then again, not many actors would want to associate themselves with a character like that, would they? Nevertheless, that was 2003 and here we are just over a dozen years later with its long-awaited sequel. Was it worth the wait?
Willie (Billy Bob Thornton) has hit rock bottom. His life, as he describes it, is “a long nightmare that’s going to end.” But it seems he can’t even get suicide right and is visited by his longtime literal partner-in-crime, Marcus (Tony Cox). Marcus has a new job for Willie and the duo must once again work together – this time to knock over a charity in Chicago. Reluctantly accepting, the duo arrive only for Willie to meet his mother, Sunny (Kathy Bates) who’s just been released from prison. The gig is a simple one: rob the holiday take from a charity and skip town. However, the director of the charity, Diane (Christina Hendricks) is a tad bit too sweet and her husband (Ryan Hansen) is the one to watch. Add to the mix that Thurman (Brett Kelly) is in transit from Arizona to Chicago to be with Willie for the holidays. Can things get any worse? Of course they can.
2003’s Bad Santa was vulgar, but it had just enough sincerity where it wasn’t totally devoid of emotion. Bad Santa 2 trims that sincerity and replaces it with obscenity.
Four cast members reprise their role for the film including Oscar winner Octavia Spencer (who once again plays Opal the prostitute). Lauren Graham is nowhere to be seen, but Thornton, Cox and Brett Kelly are there for nostalgia. Bad Santa 2 seems to pride itself on how vulgar and disgusting it can be (and get away with doing so). I chose the Unrated version and let me just say that when it made me squirm – it’s vile. I wasn’t offended, by any stretch, I get the premise, but there’s doing something and then doing it just for the sake of doing it. Director Mark Waters (Mean Girls) is certainly capable of delivering a quality picture and with both Thornton and Cox falling right back into their respective roles – there was potential. The always great Kathy Bates fits right in, but even her prowess isn’t enough to save this film. Drugs, sex, drinking…you name the sin and it’s there – in spades. I feel a “less is more” approach could have made this one a bit more like its predecessor, but no dice. If you want to see how far a movie will go to try and prove a point, this might be for you. As for me, I’ll stick with the original.
Video: How’s it look?
As a new release and an Ultra HD one at that, Bad Santa 2 leaves nothing to the imagination in the video department. The 1.85:1 HEVC image is crystal clear – something that might not be that beneficial when you’re starting at Kathy Bates’ tattoos or Thornton’s perpetual 5 o’clock shadow. While not the most colorful film, the red suits being the exception, the color palette is muted though the stark white of the Chicago snow does offer a bit of depth and texture. Contrast is strong and after watching a few scenes on the included Blu-ray, the HDR on the 4K version is noticeable. All in all a good-looking transfer and one that’s on par with recent 4K releases.
Audio: How’s it sound?
For a film that prides itself on seeing how many profane words the actors can utter, the DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack seems to do a good job at recreating them. If you want to hear Thornton’s trademark “God Damn, kid!” then this is the best sound to hear it in. Both the Ultra HD and Blu-ray have the same mix, so there’s really no added benefit of the 4K version. Surrounds play a supporting role and while the front stage is active throughout, I wasn’t really blown away. It’s a good, but not too terribly memorable, mix.
Supplements: What are the extras?
- Thurman: Then and Now – Through a montage of clips from Bad Santa, we get a look at “Thurman” as the actor tells us of his time on that film as well as his transformation to reprise his role. Yes, he had to get his hair colored and in a perm and gain 50 lbs. to play Thurman in Bad Santa 2. Oddly, some of the foul language is bleeped out from the first film, yet we have Red Band featurettes on this disc which have bad language in them intentionally. Go figure.
- Just Your Average Red Band Featurette – A 2 minute “behind the scenes” look at the film with all the profanity you can squeeze into during that time.
- “That’s My Willie” Original Animated Series – I don’t think this is an actual animated series, rather it’s just a 4 minute piece of animation that’s meant to, well I think, bridge the gap between the first movie and the second. Essentially it’s a series of (mis)adventures of Thurman and Willie as Thurman’s naïveté gets a tad bit old too quickly.
- Jingle Balls – In what is destined to become a new holiday tune, we get the classic song “Jingle Bells” composed entirely swear words from the film. Words, pun fully intended, can’t do this justice.
- Trailers and Spots
- Red Band Teaser Trailer (Uncensored)
- Red Band Trailer #2
- “Bad Award”
- “Walking Bad”
- Gag Reel – Not a lot to report here, we all know what these are like. Flubbed lines and alternate takes will fill four minutes of your day.
- Alternate Opening – Willie has an encounter with a rather large man on a rascal. This prompts him to take a swig of Vodka. Life goes on.
- Deleted Scenes – Nearly three minutes’ worth with the highlight being a 9 year old girl who wants a certain part of the male anatomy so she can “complete her transition.” Moving on…
- Alternate Ending – A little longer with some explanation we don’t necessarily need or want, but I suppose this is nice to have.
The Bottom Line
2003’s Bad Santa was vulgar, but it had just enough sincerity where it wasn’t totally devoid of emotion. Bad Santa 2 trims that sincerity and replaces it with obscenity. While there are some cringe-worthy laughable moments (at least for me), I feel it was a bit too vile for its own good. Granted I did watch the unrated cut, but even the theatrical cut pushed the envelope a bit too much. While it’s nice to see Thornton reprise one of his better roles, it was just a bit too long since the original and I feel this one landed a bit flat. Judging by the critical and commercial response – others agreed.