Blu-ray Review: Bad Santa 2

Back in 2003, an unusual holiday comedy hit theaters. Pointedly offensive, Bad Santa starred Billy Bob Thornton as alcoholic, sex addicted department store Santa Claus and professional Thief Willie T. Soke. Bolstered by a terrific performance from Thornton and memorable turns from a supporting cast that included Lauren Graham and two late, great comedic talents in John Ritter and Bernie Mac, Bad Santa received positive reviews from critics and proved to be a moderate box office success. However, the film gained a new audience on home video, where the film attained cult status. Talk of a sequel had been around for years, since Thornton had expressed interest in reprising his role of Willie. However, after seeing Bad Santa 2, I’m guessing Thornton might have had second thoughts about taking Santa’s beard out of moth balls.

Let’s get this out of the way — the first movie was laugh out loud funny, this should one? Flat out lazy and occasionally offensive. Willie is as foul mouthed as ever, but this film lacks the element of surprise and the heart of the first film.

Now fifty-something, stuck in a dead-end Jon and living in a cheap hotel, Willie is at a serious low point. He can’t even kill himself — he stuck his head in his oven only to discover it’s electric! It’s during this botched suicide attempt that Thurman Merman (Brett Kelly) the kid from the first film, shows up, now grown and working in a sandwich shop. Thurman delivers a mysterious package. Inside, Willie finds cash, a cell phone and a note from his much-reviled former partner in crime Marcus (Tony Cox). Just out of prison, Marcus and an associate have come up with a plan to steal from a charity that collects money using Santa suited volunteers, but their going to need Willie’s safecracking skills to pull it off.

Although Bad Santa 2 feels like an unnecessary sequel and the basic story leaves a lot to be desired, there are a couple of elements that work pretty well. With the introduction of Willie’s mom, Sunny (Kathy Bates), we learn a bit about his background, which serves to answer a lot of questions. A juvenile delinquent, she gave birth to Willie while serving time. As a seasoned con woman, Sunny is more than happy to join Marcus in his latest adventure and encourages her son to do the same.

Unlike the original, Bad Santa 2 is dirty for the sake of being dirty; the constant unfunny jokes centered around anal sex get old fast. While director Mark Waters rehases some of the best moments from Terry Zwigoff there’s a nastier edge to things that socks the humor right out of it. Tastes certainly have evolved in the intervening thirteen years, but since Bad Santa remains a hilarious holiday favorite, it seems that scribes Johnny Rosenthal and Shauna Cross opted for quick one liners and gags, rather than going for real character development and a satisfying comic payoff. I would recommend adding this title to your Blu-ray library only if you’re a franchise completionist. Otherwise, don’t bother, the sequel we got here doesn’t do justice to the original.

Presented in the 1.85 aspect ratio, Bad Santa 2 has been given a strong presentation. Sharp from start to finish, I didn’t spot any softness. The image is well defined throughout, with no evidence of DNR or source flaws. The orange and teal hues look positive throughout, offering a nice level of clarity and acceptable depth. Blacks are dark and deep, while shadow delineation is good. There are no real issues to be found with this transfer.

The DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack delivers the limited soundfield one expects from most comedies. Largely focused in the front channels, the music is given a nice breadth of space, while ambient sounds come in from the sides. Surrounds kick in regularly, offering reinforcement to front loaded panning activities. Distortion isn’t an issue and dialogue is clean and clear throughout the presentation.

English and Spanish subtitles are included.

The following extras are available:

NOTE: The Blu-ray includes the film’s Theatrical Version (HD, 132:16) and the Unrated Cut (HD, 1:34:50)

  • Alternate Opening (HD, 1:00)
  • Alternate Ending (HD, 2:49)
  • Deleted Scenes (HD, 2:41) If you watch the ‘Unrated Cut’ of the film, these scenes are simply a repeat of what’s been added there.
  • Gag Reel (HD, 3:59) Fairly typical goofs and gags.
  • Thurman Then and Now (HD, 2:27) In this brief piece, director Mark Waters and actors Billy Bob Thornton, Brett Kelly, Tony Cox, and Kathy Bates discuss the Thurman character and Kelly’s performance.
  • Just Your Average Red Band Featurette (HD, 2:00) Kelly, Thornton, Waters, Bates, and actors Christina Hendricks, Jenny Grigino and Ryan Hansen. They offer forgettable comments about the film, punctuated by some crude remarks.
  • Original Animated Series (HD, 3:51) Titled, “That’s My Willie,” it’s the animated adventures of Willie and Thurman since the first film. Just not funny.
  • Jingle Balls (HD, 0:35) The film’s raunchiest bits set to holiday music.
  • Trailers and Spots (HD) Two trailers and four TV spots for the film.

Bad Santa 2 (2016)
2.8 Reviewer

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