The problem is, can you ever catch lightning in a bottle the same way again with a sequel? Sadly, no. But I think the problem with this sequel is very specific.
Much of it works well. Chloë Grace Moretz remains the best thing about the series. Now, instead of a child, she’s a teenager, so I have to admit seeing her in that Hit Girl costume is slightly unnerving. It’s like the movie isn’t sure whether we’re supposed to see her a sex object or not. Out of the costume, Mindy deals with some very normal teenage hormone issues. I’ve read reviews that say this doesn’t work, that it’s a scaled down version of Mean Girls. Well, I never saw Mean Girls. (“You never saw Mean Girls?” everyone shouts.) This stuff was kind of fun. Funny, touching. Of course, as an audience, we are dealing with this ridiculous tension between what’s best for the character (not being a superhero anymore) and what’s best for the movie (kick some ass already). That tension was handled better in the first film. Here’s it’s just awkward.
Which leads me to what’s really wrong with the film: the direction. Jeff Wadlow does not have the deft touch that Matthew Vaughn brought to the original. Every ounce of interest I have in Hit Girl and Kick-Ass (played serviceably by Aaron Taylor-Johnson) is spillover from the first film. And characters barely fleshed out in the first film (Kick-Ass’s dad, Red Mist’s mom) are mere ciphers now.
Some of the new characters are worthwhile. Night Bitch (Lindy Booth) was mildly interesting as a new love interest for Kick-Ass. (Though writing the Katie character out with a punchline felt unnecessary.) I liked John Leguizamo’s Javier. Colonel Stars and Stripes was remarkable, one of Jim Carrey’s best supporting performances. Though my favorite character might have been Dr. Gravity, but that may be because of the enormous goodwill Donald Faison built up with me over the years from his performance on Scrubs.
The bulk of the scene chewing goes to Christopher Mintz-Plasse’s villain. Some of his villainous shenanigans carried some emotional weight and others just felt tacked on and gratuitous. Here again, the direction didn’t convey the atmosphere well enough for these horror beats to really punch you in the gut the way they should.
Action-wise, the whole show felt a little sub par. There’s nothing that comes close to matching Hit Girl taking out the gang members in the final sequence of Kick-Ass. The best scene is probably when she saves Kick-Ass from the clutches of the bad guys in a moving van on the highway, but even there, it plays like dime-store Michael Bay.
So, a good story and some good performances, but little magic to string it all together. Shame.