Kick-Ass 2 movie

This publicity photo released by Universal Pictures shows, Jim Carrey, left, as Colonel Stars and Stripes making a plan with Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Kick-Ass in a scene from the comedy film, "Kick-Ass 2."

[HONS, AP Photo/Universal Pictures]

“Kick-Ass” was one of those movies that seemed to have everybody split. Either you found the film morally reprehensible or you soaked up every minute of the film’s colorful violence and profanity. Personally, I was among the latter group.

“Kick-Ass 2” is likely to spark a similar mixed reaction among audiences. If you despised the first one, avoid this one at all cost. If you loved the first one, you’ll probably at least like this one all right.

“Kick-Ass 2” isn’t a superhero sequel that improves upon the original like “The Dark Knight” or “Spider-Man 2.” There’s a certain sparkle missing from this follow-up, with laughs that don’t hit quite as hard and action sequences that don’t dazzle as much. When the film wants to, it can indeed kick as much ass the original. It’s just too bad we have to eek through the occasional misfire to get to the good stuff.

Aaron Taylor-Johnson is back as Kick-Ass, who has really bulked up since the last film. By day, he still maintains the role of nerdy high-school student, Dave Lizewski. Since Kick-Ass broke out into popularity, the population of superhero wannabes in New York has significantly grown. Kick-Ass ends up joining an armature version of the Avengers called Justice Forever. The highlights of the group include Donald Faison as Dr. Gravity, who’s not a doctor in any sense, Clark Duke as Dave’s old pal Marty, now going by the alias of Battle Guy, and Jim Carrey in one of his top-five most bizarre performances as Colonel Stars and Stripes, a battered ex-mob enforcer with an unidentifiable accent. If anything, he kind of sounds like the New Yorker version of Forest Gump.

A world of heroes must mean there’s also a world of villains, though. Christopher Mintz-Plasse’s Chris D’Amico, formerly known as Red Midst, takes center stage as the big bad guy. His new alter ego is The Motherf-r, who sports a leather mask. The problem is that he’s not the most physically or intellectually gifted villain. Luckily, he has the funds to hire a legion of fellow super villains, which includes a Soviet juggernaut lady called Mother Russia (Olga Kurkulina).

Whenever any of these characters are on screen, “Kick-Ass 2” is a blast. But the film falters in the one area that really made “Kick-Ass” shine. There’s no denying that Chloe Grace Moretz stole the whole show last time as Mindy, aka Hit-Girl. This time around, she still has some memorable one-liners and applause-worthy moments, especially when she takes vengeance on a trio of queen bees. For a majority of the movie, however, the character is out of commission as she tries to live a normal life. Moretz still gives a great performance, but the audience simply doesn’t want to see this character go through a teenage girl phase. We want to see her at the center of the action, hidden behind her mask and purple hair.

It should also be noted that “Kick-Ass 2” is even darker than its predecessor, if that’s possible. This would be okay if the darker elements were mainly played for laughs like in the first film. In “Kick-Ass 2,” though, a lot of the darker aspects are played for drama, which can feel sort of out of place. There are a couple characters that die rather gruesome deaths. Unlike the first film, where the violence was almost always shockingly funny, here it can just come off as depressing. “Kick-Ass 2” never makes the leap into flat out mean-spirited or unpleasant territory. Yet, there are times when you wish some of the characters would lighten up.

Jeff Wadlow isn’t quite on par with the previous film’s director, Matthew Vaughn of “Stardust” and “X-Men: First Class.” Regardless, Wadlow does incorporate just enough kinetic energy, wicked humor, and inspired new ideas to make “Kick-Ass 2” worthwhile. There’s even a nice relationship between Kick-Ass and Hit-Girl this time as they try to figure out exactly where they belong in this insane world. It would be great to see these two again if they decide to make “Kick-Ass 3.” Of course by that point Hit-Girl could probably be upgraded to Hit-Woman.

Nick Spake reviews movies on his website,

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