When Kick-Ass burst onto the scene in 2010, it was blast of fresh air among comic book movies. Brazen and unapologetically violent, it made the idea of an 11-year-old girl taking out an entire room full of bad guys not only plausible, but also utterly watchable. (Having the talented Chloe Grace Moretz helped tremendously.)
But the inevitable sequel, Kick-Ass 2, is missing a few key components of the original. First is the element of surprise, which made the rise of Dave/Kick-Ass (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Mindy/Hit Girl (Moretz) such fun in the first place.
Now, the two of them are dealing with overbearing parental figures, the inanities of high school, and the wear-and-tear of trying to be everyday superheroes.
Without the benefit of shock value, much of Kick-Ass 2 has a been-there, done-that feel to it.
More important is the turnover in behind-the-scenes talent. Original writer/director Matthew Vaughn is busy with the X-Men universe, so the reins were handed over to Jeff Wadlow, who isn’t a novice, but who hasn’t exactly set the world on fire, either.
Wadlow can never seem to find the right tone. Like the original, the sequel bounces around from comedy to drama to action, but the funny parts are never that funny, the dramatic parts take themselves too seriously, and the action seems to be trying just a bit too hard.
Without the benefit of shock value, much of the film has a been-there, done-that feel to it.
The lack of a compelling story doesn’t help matters. Dave decides to join up with other wannabe superheroes, a group that includes Colonel Stars and Stripes (Jim Carrey).
Mindy attempts to eschew seeking vengeance by trying to fit in with other normal teenagers. And Chris D’Amico (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), their archenemy, takes on an unprintable supervillain name and goes on his own quest for revenge.
Although each of the stories has individual moments of entertainment, the three don’t really gel well together. More than ever, Dave seems like a pansy who should’ve never undertaken being a superhero in the first place. Chris is equally pathetic, constantly hiding behind others, a joke that should be funny but never hits home.
As in the original, Mindy/Hit Girl is the most compelling character; she really deserves her own film. But even her arc has its dull stretches, as the repetitive nature of her relationship with her new guardian (Morris Chestnutt) and the predictability of her run-ins with popular kids at school can’t hold a candle to her in action.
The biggest sin the movie makes is that none of the characters seems to move forward, despite proclamations to the contrary. Leftovers are rarely as good as the dish you had the first time around, and Kick-Ass 2 is no exception.