Kick-Ass 2 (***)


kickass_two_ver8I don’t know that there’s anyone out there who could make the case that Kick-Ass 2 is a better film in any way, shape, or form than its predecessor. By that same token, if Kick-Ass wasn’t your cup of tea, I doubt this one will convert you one bit. Still, Kick-Ass 2 is a fun action comedy that suffers by comparison to the last flick. Some of that spark and originality are gone, but at its core this is still a similarly fun movie. Writer/director Jeff Wadlow, stepping in for co-writer/director Matthew Vaughn and co-writer Jane Goldman, does a decent enough job, though the Vaughn/Goldman team was preferable in my book. Wadlow isn’t exactly a hack (despite a lackluster previous output), but it does feel like a “lesser” sequel to me. As much as the filmmaking is one step down, so is the acting, though by no stretch are returning players Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Chloe Grace Moretz, or Christopher Mintz-Plasse bad. They just aren’t as much fun as last time (especially Moretz, who I thought was nomination worthy last time around) and new addition Jim Carrey just can’t chew the scenery like Nicolas Cage did. I’m still recommending Kick-Ass 2, but this time around we’re not getting a deconstruction of the superhero film at all, merely a decent superhero sequel.

Picking up where we last left things, our world is now filled with average men and women donning masks and becoming “superheroes”. Kick-Ass (Taylor-Johnson) is still the godfather of the movement, but he’s given up the gig to focus on being average joe Dave Lizewski. The same goes for Mindy McCready/Hit-Girl (Moretz), who’s promised her father’s friend Marcus (Morris Chestnut) that she’d be a normal teenaged girl instead but still skips class to train. While Dave longs for the excitement of being Kick-Ass (eventually tagging along to Mindy’s training sessions) and Mindy navigates the waters of high school, rich kid Chris D’Amico (Mintz-Plasse), the son of a mob boss who betrayed Kick-Ass last time, is just as bored as they are, only he’s got other impulses too. He longs to become the world’s first super villain. When Kick-Ass and Hit-Girl reappear and the former joins up with some other masked crime fighters to form a group called Justice Forever, Chris decides to make his move. With the help of his bodyguard Javier (John Leguizamo), he becomes The Motherfucker and sets out to kill all heroes by recruiting a bunch of thugs to become villains as well. Dave may have a tough new friend in Colonel Stars and Stripes (Carrey), but most of his new friends are regular folks unaccustomed to fighting, and Mindy is struggling to give up her alter ego for good, so will Kick-Ass be any match for the murders coming after him?

movietalk-kickass2-630-jpg_201421The acting here is decent enough, but gone is the spark that we got last time. Nicolas Cage isn’t in this one, but his character’s presence looms large, and that just made me long for Cage’s enjoyable Adam West riff in the prior film. The best of the bunch here is still Chloe Grace Moretz, but considering how much I adored her in the last one, this time around she’s just good, not great. Moretz suffers from having to spend more time out of the suit than in it. There’s no memorable moment for her either. The same goes for Aaron Taylor-Johnson, who’s character is meant to inspire other, wilder ones. That’s still the case, but without the mildly brilliant zaniness that came before. Jim Carrey is fine hamming it up as a more violent hero, but he’s not actually in the film all that much, so his impact is limited. Christopher Mintz-Plasse gets to be more violent here, but his performance is still just average, while newcomers John Leguizamo and Morris Chestnut (who replaces Omari Hardwick) don’t have as much screen time as they should. Clark Duke and Lyndsy Fonseca are among the returning supporting players, while other newbies include Donald Faison and Lindy Booth. It’s an enjoyable ensemble, but with somewhat diminishing returns from the initial film.

Jeff Wadlow’s writing and direction ape that of the original, but it does seem to be imitating it more than anything. Certain plot elements (including the use of vomiting) come off as even more immature than the last time around, but what really hurts Wadlow is that he isn’t really saying anything here. The first film was, to me at least, a clever deconstruction/satire of superhero origin stories that also functioned as a really good superhero origin story in and of itself. That was what made Kick-Ass so interesting, but Kick-Ass 2 (which exists because the last one was a hit on DVD) is just an adaptation of the comic of the same name, adding nothing else to it. The end result is still enjoyable and a fun action comedy to end the summer on, but there’s nothing extra going for it, if that makes sense.

Overall, Kick-Ass 2 is an inferior sequel to the original that manages to work on its own terms, but just not in the same sort of way. I giggled at the antics on display, but I was always aware that nothing particularly special was happening. Fans of the first film will like this to varying degrees, but anyone who wasn’t a Kick-Ass fan already will find very little to latch onto here with Kick-Ass 2. My thumb is up for this one, but take my qualifications to that recommendation seriously, since it will probably inform whether you’ll dig it or not. I did, but I’m sure plenty of you won’t…

Thoughts? Discuss in the comments!