Superhero sequel filled with contradictions, conflicts
The only butt "Kick-Ass 2" kicks is its own.
Director Jeff Wadlow's screenplay preaches that superheroes cannot exist in the real world because they cannot deal with the consequences of death and loss.
"Kick-Ass 2"★ ★
Starring: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Chloe Grace Moretz, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Jim Carrey, Morris Chestnut
Directed by: Jeff Wadlow
Other: A Universal Pictures release. Rated R for strong violence, language, crude and sexual content, brief nudity. 103 minutes
Wadlow's superheroes jump, punch, kick, absorb blows and defy the laws of physics like Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner.
So why pretend these superheroes live in the real world if they still act like cartoon characters?
Even if the fast-paced and violent sequel had fully committed to its other message, the very generic "stay true to yourself" pep talk, the movie would have at least made sense.
Instead, we get "real world" superheroes who shrug off blows to the head and stab wounds to move on to the next bloody street fight.
Dave Lizewski (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) knows his true identity: the superhero Kick-Ass who rose to fame after becoming a viral hit on YouTube in Matthew Vaughn's visually impressive 2010 original.
Mindy (Chloe Grace Moretz, whose potty-mouthed and eye-popping Hit Girl alter-ego stole the first film) isn't so sure about her superhero life. She promised her departed father, the Batman-like Big Daddy, that she would live as a normal high school freshman with her police officer guardian, Marcus Williams (Morris Chestnut).
With Mindy trying to fit in with the popular girls at school, Dave joins a group of masked heroes called Justice Forever. Their leader, Colonel Stars and Stripes (Jim Carrey in a convincing turn as the tough-as-nails former mob enforcer) calls his team "the good guys."
Their group activities range from volunteering at soup kitchens to beating the snot out of Asian human traffickers.
While Justice Forever patrols the streets of New York, the uber-rich Chris D'Amico aka Red Mist (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) stews over his own father's death -- Kick bazooka-ed him into smithereens in the last movie's climax.
When Chris' mother dies in a freak sun-tanning accident, he dons her sexually kinky black leather outfit and swears vengeance by forming an army of supervillains. Chris uses his unlimited funds as a superpower, costuming hitmen and gangsters and giving them silly nicknames (Olga Kurkulina's Mother Russia looks like Ivan Drago's dream woman).
As Chris recruits more followers, Wadlow's script subtly explores another superpower: social media. When Chris brags about his crimes on Twitter and threatens to kill Kick and post the video on YouTube, Wadlow suggests social media can be used for evil.
This interesting point joins the creative visual cues Wadlow and producer Vaughn insert as the most inventive parts of the film.
Transition text boxes such as "Meanwhile" and "Across town" flash on the screen between scenes like comic book panels. Wadlow continues Vaughn's fanboy style from the first film, but he ups the ante by replacing subtitles with speech bubbles to translate Japanese and Russian into English.
Sixteen-year-old Moretz steals the movie again, this time subduing her potent persona as Hit Girl to fit in with a clique of mean high school girls. Every time she fantasizes about dispatching thugs, Moretz's right-angled smirk flashes and reminds us of the insane character bubbling underneath.
Taylor-Johnson serves as a perfect straight man with the magnetic Moretz. Her hilarious and cuss-laden insults still seem to surprise even him.
Carrey is unfortunately underutilized after having such a big part in the film's marketing campaign. Mintz-Plasse goes berserk in most of his scenes, fitting because his villain is really just a spoiled child acting out.
The extreme characters -- especially Hit Girl and Red Mist -- and the creatively cartoonish cinematography constantly remind us that we're watching a comic book.
Sadly, Wadlow's hammered-home point that superheroes don't belong in this "real world" turns this sequel into a pain in the butt.