Reviews

‘Kick-Ass 2’ “not fantastic like the first”

By ANDREW LINK

(digitalBURG) — Before we dive in, two things. First, stay through the credits. Second, I want to preface the statement I’m about to make by saying that the first “Kick-Ass” movie was well-written, well-performed, witty and an all-around good film that is worth watching.

“Kick-Ass 2” seemed like a made-for-TV movie by comparison. It’s hard to really point to a single reason that “Kick-Ass 2” was unsatisfying, because it did have a lot going for it.

The acting was on par with the first film. The music wasn’t quite as outstanding, but still suited what was going on on-screen in an over-the-top way. The cinematography was well done, the writing was coherent, the action was choreographed well, and the violence was as graphically disturbing as one could hope.

In short, “Kick-Ass 2” is everything fans of the first film had been asking to see. Yet as we follow Hit-Girl (Chloë Grace Moretz) and Kick-Ass (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) through their struggle to maintain normal high school lives, the feeling we’re missing something is always present.

Was it the lack of Nicholas Cage? Was it seeing a 23-year-old guy with the body of an Olympian pretending he’s a high schooler? Was it the cliché of the coming-of-age story? The predictability of the events? The poorly rendered CGI diarrhea?

For me, it was just that the gimmick didn’t grow up with the characters.

In the first film, Hit-Girl is a show-stopper largely because of her age, and Kick-Ass is endearing because he’s a reluctant (and like us, unskilled) hero.

In “Kick-Ass 2,” Hit-Girl is actually old enough that her martial arts mastery is not singularly impressive. Her profanity seems more like a real-life teen talking, so it doesn’t have shock value. As “Kick-Ass 2” is telling a somewhat darker tale, her enthusiasm for the way she’s shaping the world just doesn’t seem to be present past the first few minutes of the movie.

Kick-Ass himself has gone from being a reluctant, somewhat geeky hero to whom many people could relate to being a cocky guy with biceps the size of cantaloupes. In many ways, “Kick-Ass 2” is the story of, well, I can’t say his character’s name so we’ll keep calling him Red Mist (Christopher Mintz-Plasse).

It would be generous to say that “Kick-Ass 2” is the story of Red Mist falling from grace, because that’s already accomplished in the first film and he’s totally static in the second. For “Kick-Ass 2” to be largely about the rise of the villain, it’s a shame to see all the villains being so flat.

It’s a much more serious film in general, with a large portion dedicated to talking about the heroes struggling to walk the tight-rope between normal and heroic lives. That’s not to say it’s a serious film by itself. It isn’t. It just comes across as less of a movie about heroes doing awesome things and more about accepting yourself and finding your own way in society, especially in the struggle to find selfhood in high school.

So maybe it’s less fun because I’m not 16 and insecure.

It’s very hard to judge sequels. Generally if you like the first film you’ll like the second, especially when it’s more of the same. “Kick-Ass 2” is just different enough that it’s hard to make that recommendation. It’s going to be a very love-or-hate movie, and as such I would encourage renting it or catching it on the fly and not going out of your way to see it.

Fans seem to be loving “Kick-Ass 2” just as much as critics are hating it, and as both of those things I’m leaning toward wishing it hadn’t happened. Since writer/director Jeff Wadlow has already discussed the plot of a third movie, it doesn’t seem likely that “Kick-Ass 2” will be a total flop.

If you’re a casual fan like most, “Kick-Ass 2” will likely be a bit underwhelming. It’s a good movie, it’s just not a satisfying one. If you catch “Kick-Ass 2” in the theater, you’ll have a just-OK time as long as you don’t have any delusions about this movie stacking up to its predecessor.

As a post-script, Colonel Stars and Stripes, played by Jim Carrey, was absolutely amazing, and Donald Faison as Doctor Gravity was Turk from “Scrubs” with a baseball bat instead of a scalpel.

“Kick-Ass 2” will be decent for those who go in determined that it will be decent. For the more cynical of us, it leaves a bit of emptiness where we once harbored high hopes. It’s not fantastic like the first “Kick-Ass,” but perhaps its biggest transgression is that despite all it does well it still comes across as alarmingly mundane.

For having the super power of being able to make us miss Nicholas Cage, I give “Kick-Ass 2” a 6.5/10.

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