Billy Bob Thornton and Brett Kelly in Bad Santa 2 (Photo: Broad Green)

★★½ (out of four)
STARS Billy Bob Thornton, Kathy Bates

The 2003 Yuletide hit Bad Santa remains one of those holiday movies, like It’s a Wonderful Life and A Christmas Story, that’s impossible not to watch over and over (and over) again. Bad Santa 2 is basically like a copy that’s been produced on a faulty Xerox machine: Some parts have been duplicated perfectly, while other bits are blurry or missing completely. So while the foul language, misanthropic attitude, and cynical performances still come into focus in this belated sequel, even squinting might not pick up much in the way of clever plotting, genuine wit, and a sneaky subversive streak running throughout.

Yet the attention to cheerful vulgarity defines both movies, meaning that plenty of laughs can be found in this flagrantly foulmouthed follow-up. Granted, audiences may not respect themselves in the morning — heck, they may not even respect themselves during the movie (at my screening, many people lambasted the film on the way out, but, boy, were they sure howling during it!) — but those looking for seasonal fare that’s decidedly more naughty than nice will be properly rewarded.

As before, the key ingredient is the give-and-take between Billy Bob Thornton and Tony Cox as those holiday hoodlums Willie and Marcus — both actors pick up where they left off, as their antagonistic characters this time become involved in a heist brought together by Willie’s equally disreputable mom (Kathy Bates). Pudgy Thurman Merman (Brett Kelly) returns to again scamper after Willie, and he’s as dim-witted as ever. Thurman is rather awkwardly shoehorned into the proceedings, sandwiched between the copious cussing and the copious copulation. Nevertheless, his presence is welcome, if only to see how he looks 13 years removed from the original film — and to see if he still puts his faith in Mary and Jesus and that talking walnut.

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