"Kick Ass 2" comes three years after the modest ($48 million) success of "Kick Ass." Covering much of the same ground, with a lot of the cute worn off or aged out of -- Hit Girl (Chloe Grace Moretz) is no longer a pre-teen, Kick Ass himself (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) strains to look like a high school senior -- the sequel is notable for some amusing bits, a few cool scenes, and its wince-worthy violence and staggering body count.
"This is the real world," Dave's long-suffering dad (Garrett M. Brown) lectures. "It has consequences."
So Dave suffers terrible beatings and and Hit Girl delivers worse ones, with blood and bullets and worse. And the mobster's son once known as Red Mist (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) rounds up a posse of evil henchmen, becomes a super villain and kills or maims scores of cops and civilians.
And there are no consequences.
But here's what works. Dave and Hit Girl talk about teaming up. They go to the same high school, after all.
"We should be like Batman and Robin," he begs.
"NOBODY wants to be Robin," she snaps back.
Hit Girl is hitting puberty and having second thoughts about this night vigilante thing. She is thrown in with some mean-girl cheerleaders (led by an amusingly nasty Claudia Lee). And they try to teach her the joys of makeup, making out with boys and Union J. (They're the hot boy band of the moment, the One Direction in this comic-book universe.)
All the high school stuff plays as wacky with a hint of reality about it.
Dave, meanwhile, finds himself throwing in with others who have taken to wearing costumes and prowling the night streets, looking for injustice. Because they call themselves Justice Forever. Jim Carrey is a bit out there as Col. Stars & Stripes, a born-again mob enforcer, Donald Faison makes a dopey Dr. Gravity and Lindy Booth is the tart who calls herself Night (rhymes with witch), who becomes Dave's paramour.
What's missing from this comic-book adaptation is Big Daddy, the father played by Nicolas Cage, who gave the first film that last dollop of heart, who taught Hit Girl her moves and who lifted Matthew Vaughn's "Kick Ass" right to the edge of zany. There's no villain with the presence of the first film's Mark Strong. Mintz-Plasse, even with henchmen he is the lone villain and leaves something to be desired.