Kicking it with Hit Girl and the Gang

2013_kick_ass_2-wideBI am not a fan of the Kick Ass comic books.

There I said it.

Why am I bringing this up? Because in comparison, I really enjoyed the 2010 film version and even with all its ridiculous over-the-top killing, poor language and juvenile humor, I felt that it was light years better than its source material.

Happily, I can say the same thing about Kick Ass 2.

Set after the events of Kick Ass (2010), our heroes find themselves searching for normality. High school, hormones and hoochies everywhere find both Dave (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Mindy (Chloe Grace Moretz) struggling to be regular teenagers. With new heroes popping up on the streets everyday, both are reminded of the lives they once lived and the thrills of being heroic. At the same time, yearning for revenge over the death of his mafia father by Kick Ass, Chris D’Amico (Christopher Mintz Plasse), haphazardly creates a plot to become the world’s first real super villain and begins forming an evil army against his unsuspecting rival.

Let the mad carnage begin.

Without having to be weighed down with an origin portion of the story, I found Kick Ass 2 to be a good companion to the first. Where most sequels fall far short, I felt this film expanded upon a few of the characters well and was a good extension of the Kick Ass story with some pretty good humor and fun, ironic approach to the super hero stories we have been bombarded with over the last several years. However, while I was entertained, it’s not till the end that I realized that this film, while fun, was not as sharp as the first installment.

When the first film was released, the bloody death scenes and the “what did she just say?” shock of having a little girl spew amazing curse words and mutilate adults worked in its favor. While in no way a small film, the bite of its approach helped deepen its effect on pop culture at the time and allowed three young actors to blossom in unique roles. However, this film seems way more watered down in comparison. Yes, there is some shocking fight scenes and of course the main villain is called the M#therF&cker, yet, in this film, I felt as if the shock value was more of an afterthought versus being central to the story’s core. As if the names of the villains and possibly a hero named Night Bitch were enough to win the fans over. In many ways, humor is used to disguise the horrible things that are happening and for some audience members, I think that will work perfectly … but for me, it just started to effect the film and it skewed my overall enjoyment.

By far the stand-out for this film is, once again, Moretz. Just like in the first film, Hit Girl is the shining star and by far a more interesting character then Kick Ass himself. In this film, I appreciated the attempt to better round out her character and make her more than just a foul-mouthed, mini-ninja as she was in the first one. I dislike teen angst story lines with a passion – one of the many reasons why I can’t finish a Twilight novel and why Harry Potter fizzled for me in the late books; however, the approach the filmmakers take on Hit Girls attempts at being a “normal” freshman in high school are both hilarious, thoughtful and, for me, very refreshing.

In comparison, while Johnson’s Kick Ass is still extremely likeable and his insecurities the core of what the film is based around, he’s just not as interesting as Hit Girl. In the middle the film I found myself not really caring as much about his story arc and wanting more from her. The same can also be said for Plasse’s villain character. More of a bumbling idiot trying to be bad, he never really takes that step into evil. Yes, he does bad things, but in the end, he always orders other people that are worse than him to his bidding and thus can never be taken seriously as a bad person. Even when the story arcs to bring the two against each other, the tension is built on other people doing bad things or, in one character’s case, a complete lack of intelligence. Kind of lame.

Rounding out the cast is palette splatter of costumes with Jim Carrey, Donald Faison, Clark Duke, Stephen Mackintosh and Lindy Booth all jumping into a life of crime fighting.

In terms of the story, I felt everything felt a little rushed – especially, for me, the portion that focused on Kick Ass and Hit Girl’s relationship. There is some gold in their training moments and quickly, their partnership moves on to the stranger hero types that begin popping up throughout the city. Of course the story is based on the idea of a “super hero team” and these other characters are integral, but I wish a little more time was given to them together in the middle of the film versus just book-ending the events in the middle.

At the same time, I think the same can be said for the special effects. In several scenes, the special effects are very poor quality and nowhere near the level of quality audiences are coming to expect. There is one scene in particular where a few bullies get their due and what is a hilarious and moth-dropping sequence quickly looses its value because the effects look so poor.

Overall, I did enjoy the film. Hit Girl is and will always be one of my favorite new hero characters. Part Wolverine, all badass, she really ends up carrying this film and while not nearly enough to make it great, she still keeps it from falling apart. Less shocking than its predecessor, I still found the film extremely funny, entertaining and enjoyable. Anchored at the end of the summer movie season may end up burying this film from getting huge audiences, but niche fans will find it and fall back in love with the little purple ninja, while hardcore source material nerds will hate on it because … well … that’s what they do. I should know. I’m usually one of them.

3 out 5 sick sticks

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