While far from perfect, and certainly not as good as some fanboys claimed it to be, 2010’s “Kick-Ass” was a welcome addition to a cinematic landscape that was just beginning its superhero boom, arguably brought on by the success of “Iron Man” two years prior. The film took the superhero tropes we had come to know and mocked them, spoofing the genre while simultaneously creating a self-parody; a “Scream” for superheroes. Although inconsistent in that parody, it was nevertheless charming and funny enough to make the movie an easily watchable affair. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for “Kick-Ass 2.” The parody is thin, if not non-existent, the humor falls flat and the drama is inflated to an unmerciful degree. If you’re a big fan of the first movie, prepare to be disappointed here.
Taking place sometime after the events of the first movie, superheroes have become all the rage. The streets are littered with self-proclaimed heroes who, in reality, don’t do much of anything, much less stop evildoers. Once again feeling the need to take action, Dave Lizewski, also known as Kick-Ass (Aaron Taylor-Johson) returns to the streets. It’s there he meets Dr. Gravity (Donald Faison) who introduces him to a new league of superheroes forming an Avengers-esque team. There’s Insect Man (Robert Emms), Night Bitch (Lindy Booth), their leader, Colonel Stars and Stripes (Jim Carrey), and even Dave’s old friend, Marty, now known as Battle Guy (Clark Duke). Their formation couldn’t come at a better time because a league of supervillains is also forming. They’re led by Kick-Ass’s nemesis, Chris D’Amico, who now calls himself The Motherfucker (Christopher Mintz-Plasse). Even worse, Hit Girl (Chloe Grace Moretz) has vowed to her new guardian that she would stop putting herself in danger and is unable to help Kick-Ass and his team.
The thing about the superhero genre, especially after all these consecutive years of watching our movie theaters get overrun by them, is that they practically parody themselves at this point. Look at this summer’s “Iron Man 3” as an example, particularly in the way (spoiler alert!) that it handled one of its main antagonists, The Mandarin, as portrayed by Ben Kingsley. It took this mysterious figure, one that threatened death and destruction and was feared around the world and deconstructed him into a joke, and a quite effective one at that (though I’m sure some comic fans will disagree). Like any good parody, it took our expectation of who and what a superhero villain should be and turned it on its head. For “Kick-Ass 2” to remain relevant, it needed to do something vastly different.
And it does, though the decided emphasis is misguided at best and downright disastrous at worst. Surprisingly, this sequel takes a drastic turn from the general goofiness of the original film and ratchets up the drama. While not necessarily a bad thing in theory, the drama was the first film’s primary downfall. Upon my initial viewing, I thought it was because it simply didn’t gel well with the over-the-top antics of the scenes those brief dramatic moments were wedged in between, but if this movie is any indication, it’s simply because it’s just not done well, no doubt enhanced by director Jeff Wadlow’s inexperience with such matters (and whose only other feature length efforts are “Cry_Wolf” and “Never Back Down,” hardly an impressive pedigree).
Whereas the drama in “Kick-Ass” merely bogged down a bit of the fun, the drama hear bogs down the entire movie. If it’s not the embarrassing “Mean Girls”-esque subplot where Hit Girl is trying to fit in at school as a normal teenager, it’s heavy handed dialogue and ridiculous slow motion shots (including the obligatory “phone dropping to the floor after receiving bad news” shot). However, none of it is done in jest, rarely acknowledging its self-aware undercurrents that were so prevalent in its predecessor. The only person who seems to understand the absurdity of the movie he’s in is Mintz-Plasse as The Motherfucker, who, despite an overall darker character turn, transitions well from the previous movie, bringing what little fun he can to a movie that is anything but.
It would be unfair to place blame on the other actors, though. Carrey, in particular, is fantastic as Colonel Stars and Stripes while the rest of the cast similarly does what is called for. The problem lies in the screenplay, which slaps them in far-too-dark, overly emotional nonsense. While some clever moments remain intact, the bulk of the film fails to elicit the excitement, fun or humor of what came before. The action is serviceable, but nowhere near as stylish, the laughs are few and far between and the story lacks polish-loose ends are left unresolved and recognizable characters from the last installment show up briefly for a line or two before disappearing, never to be heard from or mentioned again. “Kick-Ass 2” had the potential to be bigger and better, to take the solid foundation of “Kick-Ass” and make it something special, but it fails on nearly all fronts.