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RATING: 1.5 stars (out of 4)

Kick-Ass 2 joins the bland cinematic tradition of craptastic sequels that follow amazing comedies. It takes the same walk of shame that made Caddyshack, Porky’s, Major League, Ace Venture: Pet Detective and Teen Wolf all face-palm in regret and despair.

The lone winner in this grease fire is Matthew Vaughn, who directed the 2010 original then cut and run, serving only as a producer, which translates in Hollywood-ese as “It’s not my fault. They just slapped my name on this thing and I’m only in this for a paycheck.”

In Vaughn’s place is Jeff Wadlow, director of Never Back Down, who proves conclusively with this strained, unfunny mess he should have backed down. He could pass the blame on to his horrid screenwriter, who happens to be Jeff Wadlow. The lifeless, idiotic script mistakes loud cuss words for punch lines, and his story mistakes weirdly sadistic violence for excitement. Wadlow the director should fire his screenwriter, and Wadlow the screenwriter should demand his next script be made by a more capable director.

The first Kick-Ass was such a winner because it managed to make fun of superhero movie conventions while spinning an exciting vigilante fantasy tale of its own. It was unpredictable in its brutality, killing off important characters and exposing the sheer idiocy of running around in tights to fight bad guys. The sequel just brings back the survivors and has them look around with palms raised going “now what?”

There are a few high points. Jim Carrey, fresh off his weird and amazing Criss Angel imitation in The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, takes on the role of ultra-patriotic, Sgt. Slaughter-like Colonel Stars and Stripes whose trusty pet dog Eisenhower fetches balls in the most painful of ways. Also, Chloe Grace-Moretz is way too good for this awful movie as Hit Girl, a leather-clad whirlwind of spin kicks and sassy catch phrases. You want to call Child Protective Services and have her fostered away into a better movie.

Grace-Moretz does what she can to help overmatched lead Aaron Taylor-Johnson carry the load as title character, an awkward teen who, despite evolving into an inspirational hero in the last movie, is still awkward and aimless as though he’s forgotten he came of age already and needs to repeat the class.

This time around, he joins a band of would-be heroes he’s inspired, including the Colonel and some other weirdos who go by Battle Guy, Ass Kicker and Night Bitch. If only the rest of the script were as dorkily clever as its hero naming conventions, stuff would be in good shape.

But the rest of the script is not as dorkily clever. What it is, though, is strangely misogynistic and obsessed with mood-violating gore. There’s a scene of suggested gang rape that is strangely played for laughs, dismemberment, projectile vomiting and a Whitman’s Sampler of other trying-way-too-hard shockers that could have only sounded like good ideas to drunk people, way too late at night, when they were just being polite.

Maybe that’s the trick to liking Kick-Ass 2. See it when you are too wasted to care about quality control, give it half your attention and have something better to do than stare at the screen. And never, ever see the first Kick-Ass. Or any good action comedy, ever, so you have nothing to compare it too.

Or better yet, just don’t see the movie.

Starring Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Chloe Grace-Moretz, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Jim Carrey and Clark Duke. Written and directed by Jeff Wadlow. 103 minutes. Rated R.

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