GIVEN the amount of saccharine tosh we’re subjected to each and every winter, it’s perhaps no surprise that, much like an overexcited kid on Christmas Day, we embraced Bad Santa with open arms when it was released back in 2003.
Billy Bob Thornton’s portrayal of Willie Soke, a sweary, dirty, drunk conman who disguises himself as Santa, so he and his ‘elf’ partner, Marcus, can use the season of goodwill to line their own pockets, earned him a Golden Globe nomination.
The quirky, dark comedy also went onto earn more than $76 million at the worldwide box office and a place in seasonal rundowns of best festive films. Now, 13 years on, Bad Santa’s coming to town once again. When we saw him last, Willie looked like he might’ve found his happy-ever-after with Sue, a woman with a Father Christmas fetish, but when the film opens, Sue’s long gone and Willie’s set to do himself in.
First by shoving his head in the oven, until he realises it’s electric, and then via a cord, until the ever chubby and cheery Thurman Merman (Brett Kelly reprising his role) arrives at his place with a bundle of cash.
Willie’s soon meeting up with his former mucker Marcus (Tony Cox). Despite Marcus’ attempt to kill Willie and run off with the money at the end of Bad Santa, he has a proposition for him – stealing from a Chicago charity on Christmas Eve.
Despite his doubts, Willie decides to go along with it, but on arrival in the Windy City, he’s met with the unwelcome sight of his mum, Sunny (Kathy Bates), who he greets by slapping around the face.
It’s downhill from there as it transpires just how vile mamma’s been over the years, but she has a plan for the three of them – and it involves Willie working his ‘magic’ on Diane (Christina Hendricks), the prim and proper charity director.
A sequel has to be bigger and bolder than its original otherwise or why bother, but in this instance, it simply means more filth. Even Bates has admitted she had doubts over a scene in which Sunny’s sitting on the throne watching trashy TV, but she’s gone for it, as have all the cast.
There’s light relief in Kelly’s Thurman, the only person who manages to warm Willie’s seemingly cold and cynical heart, and Thornton’s quips.
But mostly you cringe. If you’re looking for a strong antidote to Christmas schmaltz, you won’t be disappointed, but there’s a chance you’ll leave the cinema feeling like you’ve downed a dodgy eggnog.