Bad Santa 2 **Dir: Mark Waters. With: Billy Bob Thornton, Tony Cox, Christina Hendricks, Kathy Bates. 92 mins. Cert: 15
This tardy-to-needless sequel to 2003’s unusually scabrous studio comedy plays the same dirty tricks with only negligible variations: rather than shopping malls, incorrigible wash-up Willie Soke (Billy Bob Thornton) and his diminutive sidekick (Tony Cox) are reteamed to rip off a Chicago homeless charity. If confronting Willie with bad mother Kathy Bates was one smart creative decision, nothing else – not the jokes about Cox’s size, not charity supervisor Christina Hendricks’ susceptibility to Willie’s dubious charms, nor the ensuing alleyway pumping – catches us by surprise this time. Likable Mean Girls pro Mark Waters wrings occasional snickers from a patchy script, but the whole feels tamely conventional: misanthropy passed through the usual Hollywood motions.
Bad Santa 2 opens in cinemas nationwide today.