No ho-ho in ‘Bad Santa 2’

Chattanooga Times Free Press - ChattanoogaNow - - SPOTLIGHT - NY­TIMES NEWS SER­VICE

Some­times be­ing sopho­moric, trans­gres­sive and unimag­i­na­tive isn’t enough. That’s the prob­lem with “Bad Santa 2,” the dis­mal se­quel to the 2003 hit “Bad Santa” that mer­rily trashed the hol­i­day sea­son.

The three prin­ci­pals are back: Billy Bob Thorn­ton as the drunken, ne’er-dow­ell Wil­lie Soke, a depart­ment- store Santa; Tony Cox as hot-tem­pered, elfin Mar­cus; and Brett Kelly as the adult ver­sion of chubby, bul­lied Thur­man Mer­man.

The main ad­di­tion to the cast pro­vides the mov- ie’s only spark, and that is Kathy Bates as Wil­lie’s down-and-dirty mom. She brings en­ergy and some­thing ap­proach­ing real hu­mor to her ul­tra-sleazy per­son­al­ity and ma­li­cious ma­nip­u­la­tions of Wil­lie.

That’s about it for the pos­i­tive side.

For the record, the plot in­volves a Christ­mas­time plan by the Sokes, abet­ted by Mar­cus, to rob a du­bi­ous char­ity, headed by wealthy sex­pot Diane ( Christina Hen­dricks), who, re­mark­ably, de­vel­ops the hots for stum­ble­bum Wil­lie. Mean­while, Mar­cus puts the moves on li­bidi­nous, zaftig se­cu­rity guard Gina (Jenny Zi­grino).

What “Bad Santa 2” is re­ally about, though, is an at­tempt to tickle your dev­il­ish side, and in a day when out­ra­geous com­edy is om­nipresent, that’s tough to pull off. Af­ter a while, the avalanche of crude sex jokes, al­co­hol hu­mor, trash-talk in­sults and slap­stick starts to work on your nerves.

It’s rote stuff, not nearly as funny as film­maker Mark Waters and com­pany seem to think. The orig­i­nal writ­ers (Glenn Fi­carra, John Re­qua) are only cred­ited in this se­quel for “char­ac­ters”; Johnny Rosen­thal and Shauna Cross get the “writ­ten by” credit.

A fall- off in writ­ing is part of the prob­lem, but a more im­por­tant is­sue is the re­place­ment of Terry Zwigoff (“Crumb”) as di­rec­tor. Zwigoff’s hu­mor is ra­zor­sharp and in­ci­sive, qual­i­ties miss­ing from “Bad Santa 2.”

He re­port­edly had a ter­ri­ble time mak­ing the orig­i­nal film and has com­plained of stu­dio in­ter­fer­ence. He has been pub­licly dissed by that film’s pro­ducer, Bob We­in­stein. Zwigoff wasn’t in­volved with “Bad Santa 2,” and he dodged a bul­let.

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