It’s a delicate art, making a film that offends and entertains in equal measure, and Bad Santa 2 botches it. Where its vulgar 2003 predecessor—with Billy Bob Thornton as an alcoholic, safe-cracking department-store Santa—was an enjoyably tart morsel of bittersweet candy, the sequel is only able to duplicate the darkness and raunchiness, not the giddy heights of hilarity. This time, Willie (Thornton) and elfin partner Marcus (Tony Cox) plan to rob a Chicago charity on Christmas Eve, aided by Willie’s reprobate mother, Sunny (Kathy Bates, who is seven years older than Thornton but a strong addition to the team). Thurman Merman (Brett Kelly), the dumb fat kid who thought Willie was the real Santa, is back too, now 21 years old but still amusingly stupid. Gone are the original director and writers, replaced by Mark Waters (who’s gone steadily downhill since Mean Girls) and scribes Johnny Rosenthal and Shauna Cross (Whip It). Though the ribald dialogue offers moments of perverse pleasure, they’re always just moments, never entire scenes, and the flat, uninspired screenplay smells of desperation.
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