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Bad Santa 2

Added vulgarity doesn’t elevate this sequel or make it funnier

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Truthfully, much of the holiday experience is a retread of what occurred in previous years — they call it tradition — so we shouldn’t be too surprised when Bad Santa 2 turns up. It’s as dinged up as that artificial tree you bought 10 years ago, but whatever: It’s Christmas, it’ll do.

The plot does get the old gang back together: Willie (Billy Bob Thornton), the titular Claus; Marcus (Tony Cox), his elf partner; and Thurman (Brett Kelly), the weird kid from the first film who had a crush on Santa, and who is now a weird adult with a crush on Santa. Willie and Marcus travel to Chicago, where they meet up with Willie’s estranged mom (Kathy Bates) for a heist job at a children’s charity. Things go wrong, and if there is a message this holiday season, it’s that you cannot trust anybody. It’s all: Ho, ho, ho … betrayal!

The original Bad Santa (2003) wasn’t the greatest film, but its commitment to cynicism and unrepentant vulgarity was admirable in the face of so many saccharine holiday films. Today there are so many hard-R comedies that Bad Santa has lost much of its original shock value. That might be why Mark Waters’ sequel is almost a never-ending stream of profanity and disgusting bodily-function jokes. (Let’s just say the “bag of balls” featured in the film’s coda isn’t Santa’s sack of treasures.) But this work can’t be saved with quantity. Bad Santa 2 just isn’t nearly as entertaining — the film’s premise is the same joke told twice (never as funny as the first time), and all the added crassness already feels dated.

And the earlier Bad Santa benefited from the foil of some decent folk pushing back against the celebrated miscreants, such as the department-store manager portrayed by John Ritter. Here, everybody is awful, so spending 90 minutes with this Santa-suited crew is a slog. But if you need a holiday-themed excuse to laugh at jokes about anal sex, statutory rape, child abuse and the differently abled, this is the ticket!

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