Hit-Girl (Chloe Grace Moretz), left, and Kick-Ass (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) face off against the world's first supervillain (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) in 'Kick-Ass 2.'
(Photo: Daniel Smith, Universal Pictures)
By Claudia Puig
Kick-Ass is a prime example of a movie that never should have bothered with a sequel. Not only is its successor played-out, but it revels in carnage while lacking the visual style and gleeful humor of the original.
The 2010 film had a fresh and irreverent concept: nerds donning capes and fighting crime, as well as a mysterious father-daughter superhero duo, played with just enough oddball eccentricity by Nicolas Cage and Chloë Grace Moretz.
This cynical follow-up (* ½ out of four; rated R; opens Friday nationwide) feels stale, but also amped-up with more brutal violence. It's hard not to reject a film in which 10 police officers are casually slayed, along with countless other innocent folks.
Jeff Wadlow wrote and directed this tone-deaf installment (Matthew Vaughn was the writer/director of the original). Where the first film mocked action-movie clichés, this retread is mired in them.
Moretz, as Hit-Girl/Mindy Macready, was an inventive comic-book figure - a little girl working alongside her beloved caped crusader father, who was killed by baddies toward the end. Now she's a ninth-grader and has been adopted by Marcus Williams (Morris Chestnut), a policeman pal of her dad's who laments that Mindy never had a childhood. He is intent on making Mindy's high school years normal.
In the first film, Dave Lizewski (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) decided to become a superhero, taking the name of Kick-Ass and donning a homemade costume. The only problem was that he had no superpower. That notion offered a way to both send up and celebrate the genre. Powered only by determination, Kick-Ass lived up to his titular moniker.
Now a high school senior, Dave approaches Mindy/Hit-Girl to be his mentor. She helps him improve his fighting skills for a while, but then she's persuaded to settle in and be an ordinary high school student. Courted, then deceived, by a small group of mean girls, she exacts her revenge with a weapon that triggers gallons of projectile vomit and other emissions. Did this suddenly become an Adam Sandler movie?
Mindy misses her dad and the good old days, when they'd take to the streets in masks and rid the world of bad guys. So more than hour into the movie, she dons her Hit-Girl suit and sassy purple wig and goes back to doing what she does best.
In the interim, Dave/Kick-Ass has joined up with other masked vigilantes, led by the gung-ho Colonel Stars and Stripes (Jim Carrey, who has since denounced the film for its violence). But these good guys are targeted by vengeful Chris D'Amico (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) and his crew of killers. Chris had a jot of humanity in the first film, but now he's just an unmitigated psychopath with an annoying nasal voice and an unprintable alter-ego name.
Moretz was the highlight of the first film, as she is here. But the novelty of seeing a very young girl morph into a tough-as-nails avenger, taking down dozens of grown men, has worn off now that Mindy is a teen.
Intended for smirks, if not outright laughs, Dave wears a T-shirt with the words "I Hate Reboots" across the front. Lacking the inventive kicks of the original, this is a movie that will only underscore that sense of loathing.