While the first Kick-Ass certainly had its problems, it was mostly an enjoyable take-down of the superhero genre, one that tried to show how the world of masked vigilantes would really work with a slightly exaggerated tone. Superheroes wouldn’t really go out in the night with homemade costumes finding people to save. They’d most likely have to search online, and then, probably get their ass kicked. Kick-Ass was part parody, part actual superhero film that melded three stories in a satisfying and often funny way.
Jeff Wadlow, director of films Cry_Wolf and Never Back Down, takes over for Matthew Vaughn for Kick-Ass 2, and isn’t able to combine all the elements that Kick-Ass 2 needs. The comedy falls flat, the violence is unnecessary and the characters and stories are underdeveloped. After a summer filled with superhero films, Kick-Ass 2 isn’t the referential capper to the summer we need, nor is it the one we deserve.
Picking up two years after the original, Dave Lizewski (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) has hung up his Kick-Ass costume while Mindy Macready (Chloe Grace Moretz) has kept up the spirit of her father/trainer Big Daddy by continuing to take on villains as Hit-Girl. At the behest of Mindy, Dave begins to train again and just as he’s ready to revive Kick-Ass, Mindy’s new guardian has requested that she should retire. All alone, Kick-Ass teams up with a group of other self-made superheroes headed by Colonel Stars and Stripes (Jim Carrey) known as “Justice Forever,” basically a low-rent version of the Watchmen.
Chris D’Amico has had his Red Mist costume destroyed by his mother, who he continues to whine about avenging his father to in his new emo getup. When he accidentally kills his mom in her tanning booth, he puts on her S&M gear to become a new super-villain known as The Mother Fucker. Proclaiming himself the villain version of Bruce Wayne, The Mother Fucker’s power is that he has plenty of money to buy the worst bad guys he can, rallies his team of baddies to fight against Justice Forever and tries to gain revenge for his father’s murder by bazooka.
The introduction of Justice Forever has plenty of promise, with Carrey effectively playing much darker than usual, and a variety of other teammates with interesting enough back stories. However Wadlow is interested in none of these, or frankly any minor characters in the film, as absolutely no secondary character is given anything close to a worthy conclusion or story of any kind. Same goes for The Mother Fucker’s team of forgettable villains.
Mindy’s story plays out as a dirtier version of Mean Girls. She gives up the Hit-Girl persona and works on being a normal teenage girl. She quickly gets in with the cool girls at her school, who teach her about the ways of dance team and One Direction-like bands. Her escape into normalcy and the film’s idea that normal can be okay is all thrown away in a story conclusion that is more disgusting than it is a satisfying end.
Like the original, Moretz is the stand out, with Taylor-Johnson playing David as bland as possible and Mintz-Plasse becoming much whinier and unbearable as the film goes. Kick-Ass has always been about these three characters and their intersections into the superhero world, but why bother when only one of them is worth following?
But it isn’t just an overwhelming amount of plot holes and loose ends that makes Kick-Ass 2 worse than its predecessor. Kick-Ass 2 wants you to believe so desperately that it’s clever, edgy and hilarious. But the references to other superheroes holds the audience’s hand, the humor is more gross-out and dumb than it is funny and all fight scenes look incredibly fake. What results is plenty of flat jokes about diarrhea, vomit, anal beads, rape, etc. that have all the tact of a Friedberg/Seltzer film.
It’s become an inevitability these days that superhero films will almost always be followed up with a steady string of sequels. But when Vaughn handed the reins to Wadlow, I doubt he expected that his sequel would be a much more abrasive, un-entertaining and quite frankly irritating take on these characters. Wadlow should have been told that the secret to superhero sequels usually is bigger and better, not dumb and dumber.