As they say in those comic book word balloons: Huh??!!
In the annals of sequeldom, Kick-Ass 2 has to be one of the lamest follow-ups ever. Everything that was novel and cool about the 2010 adaptation of the Mark Millar/John Romita Jr. misfit-teens superhero spoof has been turned conventional - Comic-Con conventional - and not cool at all. Deploying cheesy upper-corner panel captions ("Meanwhile . . .") and exhibiting more than a hint of what-do-we-do-now? despair, writer-director Jeff Wadlow lines up the original's costumed duo - Chloë Grace Moretz's Hit Girl and Aaron Taylor-Johnson's baton-slinging title character - and sends them packing. Packing heat, and packing self-doubts about their place in the high school social strata and the world at large.
Moretz, 13 at the time, snarled and sneered her way through the first film - skillfully hurling nunchakus and profanities, her eyes glinting with pipsqueak glee. The actress gives it a shot in Kick-Ass 2, but the joy is gone.
Hit Girl's alter ego, Mindy Macready, has sworn to her NYPD detective foster father (Morris Chestnut) that she'll study diligently and steer clear of cussing. Both promises are hard to keep (there's a "swear jar" brimming with $1 bills), but finally she forsakes the mask, cape, and purple wig and starts hanging with the cheerleader princesses at Millard Fillmore High.
And Taylor-Johnson's Dave Lizewski, who donned a homemade costume and became a YouTube sensation when he took to the streets to fight crime (and got viciously pummeled for his efforts), has the itch again.
With Hit Girl out of the picture, Kick Ass teams with a squad of do-gooding weirdos led by Colonel Stars and Stripes (a jut-jawed, just-about-unrecognizable Jim Carrey). They patrol the city in their fanboy (and girl) getups, gaining the attention of the media and of demonic rich-kid nerd boy Chris D'Amico (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), the superhero wannabe from Kick-Ass 1 , transforming himself into a supervillain with a name that cannot be printed in this paper.
Cartoonishly violent, with blood spray, vomit spew, severed limbs, impaled torsos and more, Kick-Ass 2 has none of the punky flair of the Matthew Vaughn-directed original. Before he sets out with his troop of loser crimestoppers, Stars and Stripes offers some advice to his gang: "Try to have fun. Otherwise, what's the point?"
What's the point, indeed?
Kick-Ass 2 *1/2 (Out of four stars)
Directed by Jeff Wadlow. With Chloë Grace Moretz, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Morris Chestnut, Jim Carrey, and Christopher Mintz-Plasse. Distributed by Universal Pictures.
Running time: 1 hour, 43 mins.
Parent's guide: R (violence, profanity, adult themes)
Playing at: area theaters
Contact movie critic Steven Rea at 215-854-5629, firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow on Twitter @Steven_Rea. Read his blog, "On Movies Online," at www.inquirer.com/onmovies.