When we last saw junior assassin Hit Girl and young vigilante Kick-Ass, they were trying to live as normal teenagers Mindy and Dave. With graduation looming and uncertain what to do, Dave decides to start the world's first superhero team with Mindy. Unfortunately, when Mindy is busted for sneaking out as Hit Girl, she's forced to retire...
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When we last saw junior assassin Hit Girl and young vigilante Kick-Ass, they were trying to live as normal teenagers Mindy and Dave. With graduation looming and uncertain what to do, Dave decides to start the world's first superhero team with Mindy. Unfortunately, when Mindy is busted for sneaking out as Hit Girl, she's forced to retire - leaving her to navigate the terrifying world of high-school mean girls on her own. With no one left to turn to, Dave joins forces with Justice Forever, run by a born-again ex-mobster named Colonel Stars and Stripes.Just as they start to make a real difference on the streets, the world's first super villain assembles his own evil league and puts a plan in motion to make Kick-Ass and Hit Girl pay for what they did to his dad. But there's only one problem with his scheme: If you mess with one member of Justice Forever, you mess with them all.
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The idea of a Kick-Ass sequel - even a good one, even one that might rope in an off-his-rocker Jim Carrey for more than a collective 10 minutes - seemed a bit unnecessary from the get-go. And this is coming from someone who liked the first movie, having delighted in its colorful charm and pitch black wit without the aid of any established fandom from Mark Millar's graphic novel. The 2010 superhero flick felt complete. It neatly rolled its ideas and themes into a standalone feature, notwithstanding the obvious sequel bait of its cliffhanger. So the announcement of a Kick-Ass 2? Yeah, sure, it could be fun. But ''worthwhile'' is another story.
Perhaps it's the absence of the original film's creative team - writer/director Matthew Vaughn and writer Jane Goldman hand all duties to Jeff Wadlow for the follow-up - that explains why Kick-Ass 2 feels not only subpar to its predecessor, but lacking in so much of its kinetic energy. Kick-Ass (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Hit-Girl (Chloe Moretz) slay dozens of enemies, but not with the fresh vigor that kept the first movie from feeling overdone... somehow. Very little is energized in Kick-Ass 2, without a reborn Dave Lizweski's (Taylor-Johnson) booming origin story pushing forth the action, or the haunting vigor of a young Mindy Macready (Moretz) peppering in some highly macabre fun... and a few peeps of genuinely sweet, sad sensitivity. While Moretz's character, struggling to adjust to a new ''normal'' life as a high school student, does engage in an interesting new story, she isn't given the time to explore it fully, as our attention is diverted to Dave's return to the heroism game (which he does for no established reason, after a hiatus brought on for no established reason) and the ascension of Chris D'Amico (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) from bratty punk to full-fledged supervillain who calls himself The Motherf**ker.
The connotations of the name are particularly unsettling when you consider Chris' garb: a box full of S&M gear he finds in his mom's closet after inadvertently, though quite unapologetically, killing her in her tanning bed. The whole sequence of events is so mean-spirited and twisted that it just feels off-putting. It doesn't match the dark but earnest ambiance of Kick-Ass; it's as if the new mission statement was, ''Let's make this one even more f**ked up!'' In this tunnel vision endeavor, you lose the compassion that paddedKick-Ass' morbidity.
But there is fun to be had with the new film, most notably in its secondary players: Kick-Ass and Hit-Girl form a posse, made up most notably of ex-Mafioso Col. Stars and Stripes (Carrey, who reminds us that he's an undeniable hoot and far more versatile than he gets credit for being) and wannabe scientist Dr. Gravity (Donald Faison, launching his endearing goofiness to new extremes). But just as we could stand to have a lot more of Mindy's face-off with her new arch enemies - her high school's popular girls - we would love a chance to get to know these masked folk a bit better. Or at least watch them make more jokes!
Even the dull majority of Kick-Ass 2 never dips below watchable. Lacking in charm and spirit, but always ''good enough'' to keep us from losing interest altogether, the film doesn't plod along as much as it does just sort of skip in circles. A total failure of a movie? Hardly. But in its will to reinvent and experiment anew with everything we discovered in the original, we'd have to call Kick-Ass 2 effectively powerless.
Follow Michael Arbeiter on Twitter @MichaelArbeiter
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