Spawned by the comic book sensation that birthed the twisted but hilarious Kick Ass movie, Kick Ass 2 aspires to duplicate that visceral originality but borrows so heavily from TV and movie conventions that it lacks both the originality and the kick of the original.
Where Kick Ass was biting and gory, Kick Ass 2 is banal and gory, with touches of bathos and cartoonish antics tossed in. The violence and gore worked in Kick Ass because the film played the story straight and didn’t stray from its genre. Kick Ass 2 veers wildly from gruesome violence to sitcom jokes and Disney slapfests. These jarring, disjointed swings make the violence disturbing and disorienting instead of being the wicked black-humor sprees its predecessor displayed with style and flair.
Inspired by the crime-fighting success of the costumed vigilante Kick Ass, average citizens decide to play dress-up and become superheroes, too. In one sequence, they even take on an army of hardened cop-killers after police firepower fails. This glorified neighborhood watch party succeeds in true cornball style by using just clubs and gumption, stretching credulity in a movie whose foundation is supposedly real-life violence and injustice. These out-of-place devolutions into corn and schmaltz are both ill-conceived and ill-received.
The film too often zigs when it should zag. The original Kick Ass had an edgy style and crazy, biting humor. Kick Ass 2’s funny bits are superficial sitcom mulch, and the violence is gruesome without the mitigating offbeat humor of the original. Nicholas Cage’s ethereally insane Big Daddy character is sorely missed. That hole in the cast is one place where a hackneyed sitcom convention (the sudden appearance of an unmentioned Big Daddy twin) could actually be forgiven.
Ironically, while the humor and story are now dumbed down and cartoonish, Jim Carrey—the master of cartoony, over-the-top humor—plays it straight and dark in his role as Colonel Stars & Stripes, this outing’s stand-in for Big Daddy. In fact, the Colonel is so dark he comes across as a true psychopath rather than the wacky hero his character is supposed to be. Declaring that scenery-chewer Jim Carrey plays it too straight in a comedy says a lot about the film’s sense of direction.
Where Kick Ass was off-the-wall and unpredictable, Kick Ass 2 is so formulaic and predictable it clangs like a telegraph office with a broken key. There are very few surprises here. In fact, after one character comments to his cohorts (and the audience) that there is concern the bad guys might attack their gathering, guess what happens just a minute or so later.
On the plus side, Chloe Grace Moretz steals the show as Mindy Macready/Hit Girl with her expressive face and spot-on reactions in a variety of situations. Equally impressive, Hit Girl’s acrobatic fights remain works of choreographic art. Unfortunately, others’ combat sometimes smacks of a Disney slapfest. In a scene evidently ripped from TV’s old Batman series, an elderly vigilante whomps hardcore killers with simple swings of her weighted purse. At the same time, a monstrous murderer who snaps men’s necks like twigs can’t seem to power through Hit Girl’s actual twig of a neck. Plausibility is definitely not high on the priority list for this flick.
Perhaps most emblematic of the movie’s miscalculations, the filmmakers have inserted a revelatory scene at the end of the final credits—after a text crawl so intolerably long that theater personnel must advise moviegoers to wait out the credits for a surprise final scene. When you must have the ticket taker instruct your audience about your movie, you know your film is in trouble—and that someone besides the bad guys needs a good kick in the ass.