Silver Screen: Kick-Ass II zero stars
At least Elysium is made with noble intentions. On the other hand, there’s Kick-Ass II, which is not just bad but thoroughly deplorable. The first Kick-Ass was an attempt to parody the superhero genre that ultimately became the thing it satirized. The second installment is even more mixed up, rhetorically pondering the ethics of vigilantism while constantly reinforcing the notion that it’s pretty harmless, often funny, and probably a great idea. The mixed message wouldn’t be nearly so infuriating if writer/director Jeff Wadlow didn’t seem to take his dimestore philosophizing so seriously in between diarrhea gags and rape jokes.
The first movie feigned to pose the question, “What would happen if people in the real world acted out comic-book scenarios?” but only as an excuse to be a hyperviolent superhero movie itself. That fundamental cheat continues here, where characters frequently say things like “This isn’t a comic book!” shortly before putting on comic-book outfits and doing comic-book things to generic bad guys straight out of the worst comic book you’ve ever read.
Ostensibly the movie is about Kick-Ass (the charisma-free Aaron Taylor-Johnson), the alter ego of a nerdy high-school kid who decided to act out his power fantasies. In the last movie he improbably killed a skyscraper full of gangsters, and now the son of the slain mob boss (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) has decided to put on his mother’s leather-fetish gear (don’t ask) and christen himself the world’s first supervillain. He hires a team of cartoonish mercenaries to take out Kick-Ass, who has joined a bumbling superteam led by born-again Christian Colonel Stars and Stripes (Jim Carrey).
The only salient question here is why the movie is called Kick-Ass when he’s the least interesting, most underdeveloped presence onscreen. The only moderately interesting characters are Hit Girl (Chloë Moertz), a petite teen killing machine brainwashed into a cult of revenge by her late, deranged father, and Carrey’s Colonel, a former mob enforcer turned bloodthirsty do-gooder. They both encompass the dark contradictions the story at least claims to examine, although Carrey is disposed of early and criminally underused, while Hit Girl morphs into a standard superhero whenever the shoddy plot requires it.
Hit Girl gets the movie’s lone good scene. After promising her adopted father she’ll stop chasing bad guys, she faces her most fearsome foe yet: emotion. A group of mean girls straight out of central casting invites her to a sleepover and forces her to watch a video of a One Direction-style boy band, and the cynical killer finds herself improbably fascinated. No amount of willpower can stave off the rush of hormones pushing her toward adulthood. It’s a funny, sweet scene nicely played by Moertz, the movie’s real star.
But Kick-Ass II belongs to Mintz-Plasse. It’s his character’s brand of petulant nihilism and foot-stomping shrillness that sets the tone. The movie is as loathsome as its villain, but as boring as its vanilla hero. Like them, it is committed to nothing in particular and draws all its ideas from the scrap heap of pop-culture. If there were any justice in this world, Kick-Ass II would be the last superhero movie ever made, our culture having clearly run through every iteration of the limited concept. But in the world of Kick-Ass, justice is just another word Stan Lee wrote down once, which can be repeated at a high-volume in exchange for a bag of cash.
Follow Bryan Miller on Twitter@bmillercomedy.