‘Bad Santa 2’: Thornton’s crass Kringle returns minus the humor

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Billy Bob Thornton (left) returns as Willie Soke, with Brett Kelly as Thurman Merman, in “Bad Santa 2.” | Broad Green Pictures

Ho Ho No.

If you were thinking of checking out “Bad Santa 2” in a movie week where some truly wonderful films are arriving in theaters, this is me, standing at the ticket counter, pointing you to just about anything else available on the marquee.

This has been the year of the long-time-coming sequel.

Along with the reboots (“Ghostbusters”) and the superhero origin stories (“Deadpool”) and the CGI-fied versions of oft-told oldies (“The Legend of Tarzan,” “Ben-Hur”) and the continuation of franchise thrillers (“Jack Reacher: Never Go Back”) and the more traditional sequels released shortly after the first chapter (“Ride Along 2”), the Great Reservoir of Creativity that is mainstream Hollywood in 2016 has been all about sequels picking up storylines 10, 15, 20 years after the original hit.

“My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2,” “Barbershop: The Next Cut,” “Zoolander 2,” “Finding Dory,” “Independence Day: Resurgence,” “Bridget Jones’ Baby,” “Titanic: Back in the Water.”

OK fine, there was no “Titanic: Back in the Water,” but there is a “Bad Santa 2,” arriving in theaters some 13 years after the fantastic, brutally offensive holiday comedy starring Billy Bob Thornton as the alcoholic, sex-addicted, misanthropic department store Santa Claus/professional thief Willie T. Soke.

As directed by the black comedy artiste Terry Zwigoff (“Crumb,” “Ghost World”) and with terrific performances by Thornton, Tony Cox, Lauren Graham and two greatly missed comedic presences, John Ritter and Bernie Mac, “Bad Santa” was a critically acclaimed, medium-size box-office hit. Over the years it has attained something of a cult classic status.

Mostly, it’s funny as hell.

Now comes “Bad Santa 2,” a lazy, crummy-looking, poorly paced, why-bother follow-up that lacks the Christmas bells to go full-out politically incorrect.

If you’re going to bring back the most offensive Claus this side of “Silent Night, Deadly Night,” and you’re going to get Academy Award winner Kathy Bates to play his morally bankrupt mother, you gotta give us more than Billy Bob half-heartedly reprising his booze-soaked, self-pitying jerk, and Bates downing shots, sporting myriad tattoos and cracking tasteless and stunningly unfunny jokes about her sexual organs and what a little perv her son was back in the day.

Not to mention the classy Christina Hendricks (“Mad Men”) in an embarrassing role as a recovering drug and sex addict who drags Willie into an alley and then onto a Christmas tree lot for self-hating sexual encounters.

The bulk of “Bad Santa 2” is set in Chicago, which is clearly not Chicago based on the architecture and the glimpses of store and transit signs in the background. (Other than the obligatory establishing shots of the skyline, the Water Tower, the Bean, etc., Quebec stands in for Chicago.)

Tony Cox’s Marcus —Willie’s partner, the little person who double-crossed him in the original — is out of prison, asking for forgiveness and keen on re-teaming with Willie for a surefire caper worth $2 million. They’ll infiltrate a Chicago children’s charity as volunteers, and rob the safe on Christmas Eve, during the big pageant when nobody’s paying attention.

Right. Because Christmas charities definitely keep all the cash in the safe all the way through Christmas.

Willie’s con artist and thief of a mother, Sunny (Bates), is already working for the charity as a Mrs. Claus. When Willie lays eyes on his mother for the first time in 15 years, he punches her in the face — and she mocks him by saying he still hits like his father.

This is first of about two dozen times when “Bad Santa 2” goes for “shocking” humor, which just sits there like a bad fruitcake nobody wants to even look at.

Brett Kelly produces a few laughs as the curly-haired, heavy-set, exceedingly simple-minded Thurman Merman, now 21 but just as naïve as ever, and just as devoted to Willie, to the point where he takes a bus to Chicago and wanders around the snowy streets in shorts and T-shirt, asking strangers, “Do you know Willie?”

Ryan Hansen is the bland, poorly sketched villain — the rich and corrupt “Regent Hastings,” who runs the charity but “skims 98 percent of the profits for himself,” or so we’re told. Hendricks is his wife, Diane, who has a good heart but seems incredibly dim, and did we mention she’s so self-destructive she yanks the pathetic Willie into alleys and other outdoor venues for demeaning sexual encounters in which she encourages him to insult her?

No doubt some critics will slam “Bad Santa 2” as a lump of coal in our holiday movie stockings.

To which I would say: why be so rough on lumps of coal?


Broad Green Pictures presents a film directed by Mark Waters and written byJohnny Rosenthal, Doug Ellin and Shauna Cross. Rated R (for crude sexual content and language throughout, and some graphic nudity). Running time: 89 minutes. Opens Wednesday at local theaters.

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