Bad Santa 2 is as funny, raunchy, vulgar and Politically Incorrect as the first Bad Santa was. Translation: Add it to your list of Christmas season perennials, with Billy Bob Thornton as the bracing antidote to all that Jimmy Stewart and Bing Crosby crap. The films' relentless profanity is a salutary balance to the smarmy sweets of the Yule. Their ambition, their driving motive, is to be as Politically Incorrect as possible. In art that's funny. In life, as we will see, that's dangerous.
The basic plot is repeated: the drunken obscene department store Santa connives with his black dwarf elf friend to pull off a major heist. Again the grown white man needs the black dwarf to help pull off the heist. Again the friend tries to rob and kill him. This time the department store is replaced by a large-scale charity, which broadens the satire from the season's commercialism to its ostensible social concern.
The one major addition Kathy Bates as Willie's violent, vicious, conniving, tattooed mother adds another dimension to the film's radical rejection of knee jerk sentimentality. This mother not only betrays but robs and shoots her son. In their first meeting mummy responds to sonny's slugging her with "You still hit like your ... father." It's not affection that runs like blood or, for that matter, bile in this family. The mother is so much like her son she's named Sunny in dramatic antithesis to her disposition.
In exulting in the profane these films evoke the tradition of the Saturnalia, the annual festival in which the medieval Christian church allowed its language and rites to be blasphemously parodied. The fathers intuited the need for their congregants to let off steam, briefly to exercise -- and exorcise -- what the rest of the year they had to suppress. In Shakespeare, Falstaff is the exultant Saturnalian opposite to the heroisms of Hotspur and Hal.
Here when Willie seems to soften at hearing Thurman's soprano carol, he's briefly allowing the release of conventional sentiment and piety into his world of lust, greed, irreverence and rage. That's the Saturnalian in reverse. It's just a moment, though, not enough to ruffle the while film's driving spirit of anger and indecorum.
The film's entire human landscape is vile. The handsome couple running the huge charity is stripped of all virtue. The thief husband has abandoned his marriage for sex with his assistant. His wife is no innocent victim. She embraces Willie's rough and dirty sex at every opportunity, with the same proviso: "This was a one-time thing. It never happened."
The charity's obese sexpot replays her boss's hypocrisy. She leads on the black dwarf Marcus's courtship for an expensive lobster and champagne dinner then dumps him finally admitting it's because of his "height." In leading him on she pretends to be liberal and colour/height blind, but in the clutch she won't give him the chance to prove himself adequate. However repulsive, the full-size and white privileged Willie, of course, wins more sexual service than he can shake his stick at. in addition to the socialite, he scores Marcus's rejector and the drink server at the wealthy soiree his mother is burgling.
Now, a funny well, if a national catastrophe with global destructive implications can be considered in any sense "funny" thing happened between the two Bad Santa films. I remind the reader of the election of Donald J. Trump to be America's next (and quite possibly last) president.
That election makes these Santa films profoundly symptomatic of their society. The frustration and rage that Willie articulates in both films inspired Trump's supporters to buy into his promises of economic and social reform, despite his clear record of the very elitism, corruption, lying and criminal self-service that he promised to oppose.
Art can play out the tensions and themes of real life. But here's the difference. The film ends and releases you back into the real world. There's no such release from reality.
We need films, among the other arts, to expose the problems in our real lives and to mobilize the humanity and values to address them. When the forces behind the exhilarating release of black comedy come together as a political force in real life, the black intensifies and the comedy evaporates.
The film ends with Willie tormenting the helpless dwarf by an adolescent sexual humiliation. What the new presidency threatens its minorities and marginalized is far more serious.