1371552953_kick-ass-2-posters (2)There is a simple rule of costumed vigilantes that follows Newton’s third law of motion:  that for every action, there is an equal opposite reaction.  Or, in the super-hero world, the rise of (good guy) masks triggers a rise in (bad guy) masks.  This is basically the premise of the follow up to Kick-Ass.

In 2010, adapted from Mark Millar and John Romita Jr’s comic, Kick-Ass gave us an ultra-violent, potty-mouthed romp which both took satiric aim at the boom of comic book movies and celebrated the fanboys of such movies.  Kick-Ass 2 picked up where the first ended, except more—MUCH more, to the point of excess—was the order of the day.

“Aren’t you tired of being on your own?” –Kick-Ass

Dave/Kick-Ass (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) has inspired a legion of copy-cat do-gooders and wanted to not be alone in his fight against injustice, joins the league of amateur super-heroes, Justice Forever.  Filling the Big Daddy shoes of the first movie is Colonel Stars and Stripes (Jim Carrey), who leads this merry band of misfits.

Mindy (Chloë Grace Moretz, who has grown up quickly) is on a reverse track, having promised to give up being Hit-Girl in order to try to fit in as a normal teenage girl.  Chris (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) blames Kick-Ass for the death of his father and sets down a path of becoming the first super-villain.  Going by the ever-so-subtle name of The Motherfucker, he forms his own evil crew, the even-less-subtly-named Toxic Mega Cunts.

So the movie boils down to two intertwined ideas:  figuring out who each of them really are and finding a place to belong.

“I know who I am.  I know why I’m here.” –Chris

justice foreverAll three are on the typical teenage quest of figuring out who they are, albeit, having spandex alter-egos confusing they usual journeys.  All three have had their fathers taken away from them and have to figure out their moorings in life.  Everyone has to find a way to deal with the pain, suffering, and tragedy that comes with life.  Mindy sums up the “real” lesson of what it means to be a super-hero:  “Taking that pain and turning it into something good.  Something right.”

They have a “father”-shaped hole in their lives they attempt to fill, wanting to be known and loved and operating from the secure place of being who they are.  When our faith can’t get traction in our lives, we become stuck.  We misplace our identity, things get shifted, then our priorities change.  We end up not living up to our potential like we should.

“Don’t you want to belong?” –Brooke

All three are searching for (or building) a safe community for them to be a part of:  Kick-Ass and Justice Forever; Mindy and her high school popular girls clique; and Chris and his Toxic Mega Cunts.  They are looking for a place where they can express themselves authentically, be accepted unconditionally; a place of hope, healing, belonging and redemption.  Such safe havens involve first being a community, allowing people to have a sense of belonging before believing. People need to find a place to call home, a place to belong, and people to call family.  People need a place of shared common mission (in Kick-Ass’ case, to make the world a better place; in Chris’, to destroy the world), some of whom can find their identity in that mission.

“You showed us that every man can make a difference.” –Col. Stars and Stripes

Exclusive - 'Kick-Ass 2' Film SetThe novelty/shock value of the first movie has worn off, but Kick-Ass 2 attempts to up the stakes across the board.  It manages to retain a hopeful, naïve air about it, but lacks the charm of the original.  The movie wisely chooses to tone down Mark Millar’s original material and also manages to not swerve into cynical territory.  However, Kick-Ass 2 needs a lot of tightening, with its often meandering storyline leaving long stretches of exposition.

It had difficulty maintaining a consistent tone.  With head of the popular girls, Brook, trying to recreate Mindy in her image, to their body fluids spewing comeuppance, to her hyper-violent battle with Mother Russia, the movie veers wildly from Mean Girls to Kill Bill (which could have been a fun if any real time and wit had been spent developing its observations).  The movie falls back onto the very comic book clichés (and problems*) it mocked in its first go around, from training montages to the death of a father to inspire or focus them (only Morris Chesnut’s Marcus survives, though he was never given much to do beyond stand on the sidelines and be stern).

One simply wants this movie to be more clever, or at least consistently over-the-top fun, than it is.

 

 

*By the way, acknowledging racist stereotypes (for laughs) is not the same as not feeding into them.  Naming an Asian villain Genghis Carnage and a black bad guy Black Death are one thing; every Asian being a bad guy is another.  Likewise, if the movie already needs to tread lightly as a lot of its action centers on a 15 year old girl being beat up, it’s hard to pull off the threat of rape for laughs.