Terry Zwigoff's Bad Santa (2003) was breathtaking in its ugliness, a bucket of green diarrhea flung across the virgin snow; its hateful hero (Billy Bob Thornton), a department-store Santa given to wine, women, and larceny, was supposedly redeemed by his fatherly regard for an adoring, misfit child (Brett Kelly), but I never really bought it. Thirteen years later the pair are back, along with Santa's long-suffering dwarf accomplice (Tony Cox) and tattooed old mama (Kathy Bates), to pull off a big heist in Chicago. Zwigoff, whose career was sunk by his subsequent flop Art School Confidential, has been replaced by Mark Waters (Mean Girls), who works the same vein of raunchy, misanthropic humor but dispenses with any sentiment. Christina Hendricks joins the party as a prim charity worker who turns out to be a dirty, dirty girl; the whole series is based on the notion that no one is any better than his worst impulse.
By J.R. Jones