Three years ago, Matthew Vaughn's crazy, wild "Kick-Ass" was shocking. It's a quality that is not duplicated in the new "Kick-Ass 2," which feels arbitrary and unnecessary.
Again based on comics by Mark Millar and John S. Romita Jr. about a regular guy who becomes a superhero, "Kick-Ass 2" doesn't have the sense of humor that its predecessor did. It doesn't even have a cohesive idea or theme.
As it begins, Dave Lizewski (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) is retired, but has grown antsy watching so many new superheroes turn up on the scene, heroes that he — as Kick-Ass — has inspired.
So he dons his costume again, hoping to team up with Hit Girl (Chloe Grace Moretz).
Unfortunately, Hit Girl's new guardian (Morris Chestnut) wants her to stay in high school, where she faces an even greater threat than any supervillain: popular girls.
So Kick-Ass instead joins a new supergroup led by Colonel Stars and Stripes (Jim Carrey), and hooks up with a cute girl superhero called "Night Bitch" (Lindy Booth).
Meanwhile, the former Red Mist (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) has inherited his family's fortune and takes on a new identity, a supervillain known as The Motherf*****, whose main goal is revenge.
Characters bounce back and forth between concepts of being a hero with a costume, and being a hero without one, without deciding on which is cooler, or nobler.
For a little while, the movie plays around with biting social satire in high school sequences, but they are quickly wrapped up and dropped in time for the final showdown.
Lacking humor or the element of surprise, all that's left is brutal, gory fighting that's not original in any way. There's nothing truly at stake in these fights.
In the first movie, Kick-Ass was a normal guy. But after three years in which Taylor-Johnson has been working out, he now looks like a muscular superhero and there's little doubt about who will win in the end.
Jeff Wadlow, in the director's chair, lacks the approach, smarts and style of Vaughn's previous film (and Vaughn's work in general, including "Layer Cake," "Stardust" and "X-Men: First Class").
But the ultimate sign of atrophy is that not even the loony Carrey can muster up anything exciting to do here.
While prior knowledge and good memories of the "Kick-Ass" characters give "Kick-Ass 2" a bit of goodwill for awhile, it's not long before viewers will want to throw in the towel.
Starring Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Chloë Grace Moretz, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Jim Carrey
Written and directed by Jeff Wadlow
Running time 1 hour, 43 minutes