Skip to main content

A penguin. It doesn’t have to be alive.

Bad Santa 2
(2016)

(SPOILERS) Unasked for and uninspired attempt to milk a franchise that didn’t need milking, the only surprise with Bad Santa 2 is that it occasionally does manage to raise a smile amid the rather tired attempts to replicate the first movie’s laughs, which entails looking everywhere for ways to shock and be transgressive. You’d be forgiven for thinking the movie was on the former Weinsten Company’s slate for dusting off properties with the vaguest potential, but no, the brothers weren’t involved this time. Which puts Billy Bob Thornton squarely in the frame for its eventual materialisation.

You can’t blame him for attachment to a plum role, only for the foolishness of thinking it could in any way be a worthy revisit (the same goes for John Turturro and his Jesus Quintana movie). Writers Johnny Rosenthal and Shauna Cross conspire to dredge up a reunion with Tony Cox and Brett Kelly to boot (even Octavia Spencer, for reasons best known to herself, has agreed to reprise prostitute Opal). Cox’s return as Marcus Skidmore makes sense, given there’s an inevitable robbery at the core of the plot, and he’s duly as coarse, crude and splenetic as before, albeit as with everything in Bad Santa 2 – naturally, there’s a repeat of the “What do you want for Christmas little boy/girl” sequence – there are steeply diminishing returns.

And bringing back Kelly as Thurman Merman is a major misstep; the choice to make him an identical adult version of the boy he was thirteen years earlier pushes the picture firmly into the realms of affected self-parody and serves to underline that Bad Santa 2 has nowhere to go but in a circular motion. Thus, we have Christina Hendricks replacing Lauren Graham as Willie’s love interest but never really convincing us that she’d be into Willie (who is now a sexual dynamo, rather than an incontinent shambles) – she’s a recovering alcoholic and the co-founder of the charity Willie plans to rob, but also a dirty girl who likes to fuck against dumpsters.

The big change comes with Kathy Bates, Willie’s Parkinson’s-suffering mother Sunny and mastermind of the robbery scheme, whom he punches when he first meets her – not the hilarious moment it might have been – and who joins in and then some with hurling swathes of abuse at him (calling him “shit stick” and suggesting he looks like “a fucking albino scarecrow” being the least of it). She had Willie at thirteen, the consequence of the one time his father “didn’t fuck me in the ass” (“Hell, I didn’t even know I’d gived birth until I tripped over him”). Bates attacks the stream of filth with gusto, and it’s inevitable that some of the lines raise a chuckle, but despite the attempts to out-gross itself, there’s a flatness here that comes from treating the material as a formula. It’s just another scatological filth fest. The Coen brothers purportedly suggested the reedited original had been turned into American Pie, but it’s this sequel that carries such arbitrary fingerprints. It does, after all, proudly flourish Cox with a nutsack dangled in his face over the end credits.

Director Mark Waters provides Bad Santa 2 with a typically anonymous signature. He has definitely seen better days, mainly working with Lindsay Lohan, so a very long time ago, and was most recently made failed Young Adult fare Vampire Academy. This is only a marginal step up, and he surely knew it was a poisoned chalice; I might have suggested his brother Daniel would have been a better choice to handle Bad Santa 2, but he provided the screenplay for Vampire Academy, a long way from his glory days of Heathers. Bad Santa, in its own perverse way – perhaps less so in the Zwigoff cut – was appreciably infused with the Christmas spirit. This sequel, while replete with iconography – seas of Santas, shagging in a Christmas tree lot – and more overt in its sentimental streak, is much less so. It might even lead one to believe the season was calculated, manufactured and unnecessary.


Agree? Disagree? Mildly or vehemently? Let me know in the comments below.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

She was addicted to Tums for a while.

Marriage Story (2019)
(SPOILERS) I don’t tend to fall heavily for Noah Baumbach fare. He’s undoubtedly a distinctive voice – even if his collaborations with Wes Anderson are the least of that director’s efforts – but his devotion to an exclusive, rarefied New York bubble becomes ever more off-putting with each new project. And ever more identifiable as being a lesser chronicler of the city’s privileged quirks than his now disinherited forbear Woody Allen, who at his peak mastered a balancing act between the insightful, hilarious and self-effacing. Marriage Story finds Baumbach going yet again where Woody went before, this time brushing up against the director’s Ingmar Bergman fixation.

You can’t climb a ladder, no. But you can skip like a goat into a bar.

Juno and the Paycock (1930)
(SPOILERS) Hitchcock’s second sound feature. Such was the lustre of this technological advance that a wordy play was picked. By Sean O’Casey, upon whom Hitchcock based the prophet of doom at the end of The Birds. Juno and the Paycock, set in 1922 during the Irish Civil War, begins as a broad comedy of domestic manners, but by the end has descended into full-blown Greek (or Catholic) tragedy. As such, it’s an uneven but still watchable affair, even if Hitch does nothing to disguise its stage origins.

I mean, I am just a dumb bunny, but, we are good at multiplying.

Zootropolis (2016)
(SPOILERS) The key to Zootropolis’ creative success isn’t so much the conceit of its much-vaunted allegory regarding prejudice and equality, or – conversely – the fun to be had riffing on animal stereotypes (simultaneously clever and obvious), or even the appealing central duo voiced by Ginnifier Goodwin (as first rabbit cop Judy Hopps) and Jason Bateman (fox hustler Nick Wilde). Rather, it’s coming armed with that rarity for an animation; a well-sustained plot that doesn’t devolve into overblown set pieces or rest on the easy laurels of musical numbers and montages.

We live in a twilight world.

Tenet (2020)
(SPOILERS) I’ve endured a fair few confusingly-executed action sequences in movies – more than enough, actually – but I don’t think I’ve previously had the odd experience of being on the edge of my seat during one while simultaneously failing to understand its objectives and how those objectives are being attempted. Which happened a few times during Tenet. If I stroll over to the Wiki page and read the plot synopsis, it is fairly explicable (fairly) but as a first dive into this Christopher Nolan film, I frequently found it, if not impenetrable, then most definitely opaque.

You know what I think? I think he just wants to see one cook up close.

The Green Mile (1999)
(SPOILERS) There’s something very satisfying about the unhurried confidence of the storytelling in Frank Darabont’s two prison-set Stephen King adaptations (I’m less beholden to supermarket sweep The Mist); it’s sure, measured and precise, certain that the journey you’re being take on justifies the (indulgent) time spent, without the need for flashy visuals or ornate twists (the twists there are feel entirely germane – with a notable exception – as if they could only be that way). But. The Green Mile has rightly come under scrutiny for its reliance on – or to be more precise, building its foundation on – the “Magical Negro” trope, served with a mild sprinkling of idiot savant (so in respect of the latter, a Best Supporting Actor nomination was virtually guaranteed). One might argue that Stephen King’s magical realist narrative flourishes well-worn narrative ploys and characterisations at every stage – such that John Coffey’s initials are announcement enough of his…

Do you read Sutter Cane?

In the Mouth of Madness (1994)
(SPOILERS) The concluding chapter of John Carpenter’s unofficial Apocalypse Trilogy (preceded by The Thing and Prince of Darkness) is also, sadly, his last great movie. Indeed, it stands apart in the qualitative wilderness that beset him during the ‘90s (not for want of output). Michael De Luca’s screenplay had been doing the rounds since the ‘80s, even turned down by Carpenter at one point, and it proves ideal fodder for the director, bringing out the best in him. Even cinematographer Gary K Kibbe seems inspired enough to rise to the occasion. It could do without the chugging rawk soundtrack, perhaps, but then, that was increasingly where Carpenter’s interests resided (as opposed to making decent movies).

Maybe the dingo ate your baby.

Seinfeld 2.9: The Stranded
The Premise
George and Elaine are stranded at a party in Long Island, with a disgruntled hostess.

A herbal enema should fix you up.

Never Say Never Again (1983)
(SPOILERS) There are plenty of sub-par Bonds in the official (Eon) franchise, several of them even weaker than this opportunistic remake of Thunderball, but they do still feel like Bond movies. Never Say Never Again, despite – or possibly because he’s part of it – featuring the much-vaunted, title-referencing return of the Sean Connery to the lead role, only ever feels like a cheap imitation. And yet, reputedly, it cost more than the same year’s Rog outing Octopussy.

My name is Dr. King Schultz, this is my valet, Django, and these are our horses, Fritz, and Tony.

Django Unchained (2012)
(MINOR SPOILERS) Since the painful misstep of Grindhouse/Death Proof, Quentin Tarantino has regained the higher ground like never before. Pulp Fiction, his previous commercial and critical peak, has been at very least equalled by the back-to-back hits of Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained. Having been underwhelmed by his post Pulp Fiction efforts (albeit, I admired his technical advances as a director in Kill Bill), I was pleasantly surprised by Inglourious Basterds. It was no work of genius (so not Pulp Fiction) by any means, but there was a gleeful irreverence in its treatment of history and even to the nominal heroic status of its titular protagonists. Tonally, it was a good fit for the director’s “cool” aesthetic. As a purveyor of postmodern pastiche, where the surface level is the subtext, in some ways he was operating at his zenith. Django Unchained is a retreat from that position, the director caught in the tug between his all-important aesthetic pr…

He tasks me. He tasks me, and I shall have him.

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
(1982)
(SPOILERS) I don’t love Star Trek, but I do love Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. That probably isn’t just me, but a common refrain of many a non-devotee of the series. Although, it used to apply to The Voyage Home (the funny one, with the whales, the Star Trek even the target audience for Three Men and a Baby could enjoy). Unfortunately, its high regard has also become the desperate, self-destructive, song-and-verse, be-all-and-end-all of the overlords of the franchise itself, in whichever iteration, it seems. This is understandable to an extent, as Khan is that rare movie sequel made to transcendent effect on almost every level, and one that stands the test of time every bit as well (better, even) as when it was first unveiled.