In one scene within the new film. "Kick Ass 2", it's teenage protagonist Dave ( AKA, the all too human "superhero", Kick Ass ) wears a nerdy T-shirt proclaiming "I Hate Reboots". It's a knowing acknowledgement to all the fanboys and fangirls in the moviegoing audience who feel the same way. It's the feeling that Hollywood all too often tries to squeeze the last bit of creative juice and life by making a revived or renovated version and/or sequel from a formerly successful film, usually with lame, sub-par, and repetitive results.
Alas, despite the best efforts of charismatic co-star Chloe Grace Moretz, one of the returning cast members from the first film, "Kick Ass 2" is a highly anticipated, but disappointing misfire that fails to capture the originality and outrageous joy of the previous movie.
In that gleefully violent and cartoonish first film from 2010, "Kick Ass" told the story of a teenage superhero wanna-be with no powers whatsoever donning a ridiculous costume to fight evil doers, who's character's name mirrored the film's title. The great irony in the plot being that the name of his adopted alter ego often described the beatings he took as a totally inept costumed crime fighter. However, eventually through sheer determination alone, he becomes something of a capable crime fighter by the film's ending.
The original "Kick Ass" strongly benefitted from the double whammy advantage of casting the delightfully quirky Nicholas Cage ( a huge comic book fan in real life ) and a young, then pint-sized Chloe Grace Moretz as a father-daughter costumed crime-fighting duo named "Big Daddy" and "Hit Girl".
Unlike the wanna-be Dave / Kick Ass; "Big Daddy" and "Hit Girl" were actually capable crime fighters, albeit vigilantes, who spared no quarter when dispatching the nefarious bad guys. The wickedly fun treat of the original was not only the genuine fatherly pride and parental bond "Big Daddy" took in seeing his little girl evolve into an effectively brutal crime fighter; but also, the hilariously fun sight gag of a cherub-faced child in Halloween-style garb almost effortlessly wiping out a room full of villains while spouting clever non-sequiturs with the salty profanity of a seasoned sailor.
It was also a clever twist and tweak of all the comic book super-hero tropes where an ordinary joe somehow manages to become a costumed super-being; as well as playing off of the fantasies of millions of real life fanboys who dream of becoming the same thing, but only getting as far as the costume contest at their local Comic Con.
In this woefully feeble sequel, Dave ( Aaron Taylor-Johnson ) is now a high-school senior and longs for the days of crime fighting once again. Meantime, Mindy AKA "Hit Girl" ( Chloe Grace Moretz ) has been adopted by her deceased father's best friend on the police force and makes a cursory effort to fit in as a high school freshman and live a normal life. Though, in secret, she continues training as "Hit Girl" while dodging school and fighting thugs and thieves whenever possible.
Despite her misgivings about deceiving her adopted father, Mindy misses the good times shared with her dad fighting crime and soon succumbs to Dave's pleas to train him to be as good as she is as a crime-fighter.
Meanwhile, Dave / Kick Ass decides to join up with a motley, but good-intentioned, group of similar wanna-be "superheroes" inspired by Dave's exploits in the first film to hit the streets and clean them up vigilante style. Heading up this group of spandex-clad ordinary social outcasts is the gung-ho Colonel Stars and Stripes ( Jim Carrey ) in one of his best roles in some time as a born-again Christian, pro "law and order" military type who is not above cracking a bad guy's skull or unleashing his German Shepherd pal on an uncooperative drug dealer's nether regions.
Unfortunately for all, young Chris D'Amico ( Christopher Mintz-Plasse ) still holds a vengeful grudge against Kick Ass for causing his criminal kingpin father's death in the first film. After, Chris accidentally ( but, without remorse ) causes the death of his wealthy widowed mother; he decides with the help of his bodyguard ( John Leguizamo ) to become the world's first super villain recruiting a group of vicious criminals and killers to dress up as his evil crew of super villain henchmen.
Think The Avengers by way of Rikers' Island solitary confinement.
Making matters worse, an incident caused by one of Chris' mob-connected relatives pushes him into more sociopathic territory, making Chris truly cold-blooded and cruel. This also prompts the angry Chris to adopt a super villain moniker that cannot be printed here in full; but begins with the word "Mother".
All this eventually leads to multiple scenes of over the top violence, murder and mayhem as the diabolical Chris seeks his revenge against Kick Ass and his gang, while literally taking no prisoners in the process. Meantime, Mindy / Hit Girl has promised her adopted father to cease her crime fighting ways and act like a normal teen.
However, all this proves difficult as Mindy meets a group of popular "mean girls" in school who want to mold her into their personal pet project. But, when Mindy inadvertently upstages the teen queen bee while innocently trying to impress them, it leads to an encounter that ends up humiliating Mindy.
The humiliation scene, and Mindy's reaction, is unexpectedly interesting to watch in that it gives a slight window into Moretz' unique portrayal of Stephen King's "Carrie" in the upcoming remake.
Mindy gets her revenge against the mean girls in a cafeteria scene that involves some involuntary bodily function reactions by her bitchy adversaries in a clever and genuinely funny way that Adam Sandler only wishes he could dream up on his best day as a director.
"Kick Ass 2" aspires to the same inventiveness as it's predecessor but it comes up painfully short. Aaron Taylor-Johnson left to his own devices as the film's central character is drab and uncharismatic. His character barely carries the film, depending instead on whatever help he can get from Jim Carrey, who does add some humorous appeal to this film and Moretz' always pleasing presence.
Christopher Mintz-Plasse as, well "you know who" - also brings a few moments of fun to the proceedings, but in amping up his malevolence this time, he loses the touch of humanity that made his character a bit more enjoyable and sympathetic in the previous outing.
Truly, the only time this film comes alive is when Chloe Grace Moretz is on-screen whether as a conflicted teenage Mindy trying valiantly to be something she's not in high school; or where she shines as the ass-kicking "Hit Girl". Sadly, even with Moretz, some of the novelty has worn off in this sequel.
Moretz delivers the best she can given the material; but her character was far more memorable, unique and devilishly more fun to watch three years ago, and about two feet shorter, as a cherubic foul-mouthed, pint-sized dynamo who exploded as a whirling dervish of death and destruction served up vigilante style on-screen.
Her older maturing teenage version of "Hit Girl" still carries an entertaining punch; but then again, so did Buffy the Vampire Slayer on TV. In that respect, it's an act we've seen, albeit enjoyed, before and the novelty has worn off.
All in all, "Kick Ass 2" delivers to it's audience what they expect. These are ordinary, everyday people acting out a fantasy of being fantastic surrounded by loads of violence, murder and mayhem. However, this sequel loses it's innovative spirit early on, resulting in it being merely a warmed over rehash of a much better story told the first time around.
Even worse, this film goes several negative steps beyond the guilty pleasure of the original which was weirdly subversive and funny in it's outrageous and cartoonishly violent approach. Conversely, "Kick Ass 2" crosses the line into a variety of unnecessarily vile scenes for visceral shock value. Mintz-Plasse's gratuitously vulgar villain name aside; a lengthy scene involving a bloody massacre of police officers by the villains, as well as a rape scene played for laughs brutally eviscerates any joy or dark humor that this film tries to mine from it's superior predecessor.
One hopes this is the last unpleasant chapter for the "Kick Ass" franchise on-screen. I'd much rather prefer, as in the comic book versions, new episodes following the clearly more interesting character of "Hit Girl" and her evolution into a young woman who wields a mean samurai sword.
In the meantime, Netflix the original for a much better experience.
Tim Estiloz is a member of The Broadcast Film Critics Association and The Boston Online Film Critics Association. Follow Tim on Twitter @TimEstiloz and at www.TimEstiloz.com. - Be sure to LIKE his page on Facebook at: Tim Estiloz Film Reviews.