When the original Kick-Ass hit theaters in 2010, it had three things going for it: an inspired premise about an invisible high-school schnook (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) who becomes a DIY superhero; a gonzo performance by Nicolas Cage; and a pre-teen vigilante (Chloë Grace Moretz) with a raunchy mouth. Now, in writer/director Jeff Wadlow's witless and unnecessary sequel, all of those assets have been replaced with tone-deaf jokes and cringe-inducing carnage.
Picking up a few years after the cartoonishly clever events of the first film (which was directed by Matthew Vaughn, here in a producer role), Taylor-Johnson's Dave Lizewski is a high school senior who's hung up his lime-green unitard and Kick-Ass alter ego to focus on fitting in. Meanwhile, Moretz's Mindy Macready is now a hormone-addled teenage orphan grappling with Cage's dying wish that she leave her pain-inducing, pint-sized Hit Girl persona behind. Problem is, both of them are bored silly. They miss the thrill of street justice on the sly. While Mindy tries to make friends with a clique of popular mean girls swooning over boy bands and shopping sprees, Dave searches for new partners in crime-fighting and finds them in Justice Forever, a ragtag posse of hapless (and unfunny), spandex-clad wannabe enforcers led by Jim Carrey's sadistic Colonel Stars and Stripes. Carrey, who's publicly disavowed Kick-Ass 2's ultra violence in the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy, manages to bring some loose-screw electricity to the film. But he's right about the movie's overall tone. It glamorizes videogame-style bloodshed, never quite finding the line between satire and nihilism.
All heroes, whether they're blessed with supernatural gifts or not, require a villain, of course. And here, the film makes a misstep recycling Christopher Mintz-Plasse's Red Mist character from the original Kick-Ass and turning him into a lisping, bondage-gear-wearing baddie who christens himself ''The Motherf---er''. He's as painfully unfunny as his name. Will his evil plan to bring down Kick-Ass force Mindy to pick up her nunchucks and Hit Girl costume again? Take a wild guess. Moretz, who is 16 now, can't manufacture the same that's-so-wrong jolt she managed the first time around. Back then, it was hilariously taboo to see a little girl spout arias of profanity. Now, she's just another teenager swearing. Like the rest of the film, what was once shocking now just elicits a shrug. C