If this second Kick-Ass
installment manages to distinguish itself at all, it's by establishing a new standard for the lack of interest a film can show in its title character. As Kick-Ass, the superpower-free vigilante—aside from some nerve damage that's conveniently left him impervious to pain—Aaron Taylor-Johnson essentially plays a union suit-clad Garrison Keillor. He supplies narration, serves as a built-in Wikipedia page for dispensing backstory, and constantly asserts that “this isn't like in the comic books,” despite the remarkable similarities. While Kick-Ass busies himself teaming up with Colonel Stars and Stripes (Jim Carrey, in an extended cameo) and other costumed eccentrics apparently cut from Mystery Men
's audition montage, the film focuses its attention on Hit-Girl (Chloë Grace Moretz). Last seen going through a pack of henchmen like a katana sword through flesh, the foulmouthed, 15-year-old killing machine is now trying to survive high school. It's little wonder that writer-director Jeff Wadlow has hitched his film to the dynamic Moretz. A remarkably assured, intelligent and expressive young actress, she threw herself into 2010's Kick-Ass
, relishing the two-fisted action and four-letter profanity. Here, she seems slightly aggrieved to be repeating herself. Perhaps some of her reluctance can be attributed to a script rife with misogyny. Declining either to explore legitimately the growing subculture of real-life superheroes or offer a Fight Club
-like appraisal of individuals who derive purpose and empowerment from violence, Kick-Ass 2
contents itself with snickering at its own dimwitted attempts at cleverness and amassing considerable evidence that Wadlow would benefit from a remedial course in storytelling. Despite all the limbs snapped in Kick-Ass 2
, it's ultimately the shoddy filmmaking that leaves you wincing.