Bad Santa 2

Christina Hendricks, Billy Bob Thornton, and Tony Cox
Christina Hendricks, Billy Bob Thornton, and Tony Cox

So, though no one was ha-ha-hankering or ho-ho-hollering for the coal-black-comedy sequel to be delivered this Tinseltown season, Saint Dick is back. Bad Santa 2’s never-nice act wears thin this time around, seeming more shruggingly sneering, scowling, and sweary as it trudges along in its re-boots.

In Phoenix, Willie Soke (Billy Bob Thornton) is about to pull the plug on his short-circuiting life when his old partner-in-crime (and double-crosser), elf-sized Marcus Skidmore (Tony Cox), shows up to get him to head east for a Yuletide caper—grand-theft charity in the wintry Windy City. Once there, though, surly Willie discovers their relief-robbery means not only that he’s got to don the jolly fat man’s suit again, but he’s in cahoots with his snarly mom, Sunny (Kathy Bates). Meanwhile, maturity-stunted Thurman Merman (Brett Kelly), now 21, is still following Willie around as if he’s his derelict dad.

There’s some cold comfort, this commercialized time of year, in seeing conscience-wonky Willie, all jaundiced and morose, slumping around—Thornton has the ultra-disgusted Krusty-Kringle look down to a crotchety-Christmas T. But that was in the original, too. And, yep, there’s some smarts to some of the smears and slurs here—Willie confuses “flouting” with “filching” or, badly faking Christmas cheer, overcooks a bunch of Biblical stories into one strange brew. But even curmudgeon-comedy, making the sentiment of the season seem more earned, needs to have a certain dark spirit and, instead, there are too many toss-away scenes with rote un-PCness: the backstory to Sunny’s “Shitstick” sobriquet for her son, swearing for Tourette’s sake, anti-midget jokes, teabagging photos, even a sexual insult about a character’s dead wife.

Bates does some good work as the tough, prison-hardened mama, but she’s left alone in the Dame Department. Christina Hendricks, as the charity’s buxom boss, and the other women here are just eye-candy canes. Willie, who, when he’s not acting uncaring, oozes disdain, is somehow a sexual Svengali, maybe so all the smut-talk can be backed up with action. It’s hard not to feel, though, that we’re the ones getting a bit of a sad-sack screw-over this second time around.

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