Movie review: That's why they call them 'amateur' superheroes

For the News-DemocratAugust 15, 2013 

What It's About

By day, Dave Lizewski (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) is a mild-mannered high school senior. By night, he is homemade superhero Kick-Ass. Well, actually, he put the unitard and mask away for a while, although he inspired other amateur crusaders to take to the streets, fighting for justice.

The desire to make the world a better place pulls him back in, especially to team up with his partner-in-crime-fighting, Hit Girl (Chloe Grace Moretz), a foul-mouthed lethal teenage weapon. This is the jumping off point of the sequel, "Kick-Ass 2."

Based on a comic book, the original was a kicky blend of action and comedy, introducing quirky characters that both celebrated what fans love about superheroes and mocking them at the same time. The second effort still has the energy, irreverence and wit that marked the 2010 cult hit, although under new direction, it seems more vulgar and sadistic.

In a real world that could benefit from a Bat Signal, this sequel has an intriguing rag-tag Justice Forever team, two enormously appealing main characters, and ridiculously over-the-top villains who fit the conventional cartoon-comic genre. Keeping with the original's formula of audacity and ultra-violent fight scenes, the movie's tone is uneven but it has amusing elements.

The conflicts are many -- Hit Girl vs. her guardian (Morris Chestnut), Kick-Ass vs. his dad (Garrett Brown), Hit Girl vs. the mean girls at school, and the main battle -- Chris D'Amico, aka Red Mist (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), vs. Dave with their respective vigilante armies.

Who will save the day?


Being in the first movie was a break-through for Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Chloe Grace Moretz ("Let Me In"), and they remain a formidable pair because of their strong acting skills. Their chemistry together gives the buddy scenario some depth.

Christopher Mintz-Plasse ("Superbad") has come a long way from McLovin, and works hard at being obnoxious as a delusional bad guy who is so consumed by revenge that he builds a scary league of psychos. His new moniker as well as the group's name can't be printed here.

Jim Carrey, who can always play crazy but is taking on more diverse character parts these days, is effective as Colonel Stars and Stripes, a former mob enforcer whose mission is now cleaning the streets of perverts. His avenging angel is not only sincere but a sight gag as well.

What Works

The easy interaction between Johnson and Moretz are the series' high point, and make other unsavory parts tolerable. The best laugh is a T-shirt Dave wears to bed.

What Doesn't Work

People are sliced, diced and pummeled in graphic ways, to the detriment of the overall experience. The stylized hyper-kinetic fight scenes have an inordinate amount of torturous bones breaking, skulls crushing and brutal assaults, then a burst of humor followed by more depravity.

And again with the excessive vomit -- oh, how I hate the visual spew!

These elements are expected, but they take away from the real-guy bravery theme -- even though fanboys don't seem to mind. This walk on the wild side is intended for the converted, anyway, and probably meant to shock the uninitiated.

If you consider it solely for a cohesive plot, though -- subplots wear thin and there is an imbalance to the supporting characters, as several wind up with dead-end story arcs.

2 1/2 stars out of 4

Director: Jeff Wadlow

Starring: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Chloe Grace Moretz, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Jim Carrey, John Leguizamo, Morris Chestnut, Donald Faison

Length: 1:43

Rated: R for strong violence, pervasive language, crude and sexual content, and brief nudity

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