If ever there was a genre ripe for parody, it’s the superhero film. Matthew Vaughn’s take on Mark Millar’s post-modern comic book “Kick-Ass,” strives to be the feature that takes the first step towards deconstructing this type of movie. Problem is, the director is far too in love with heroes in spandex to properly skewer them. To be sure, his film is partially successful as one of its two storylines does winds up providing a unique perspective on caped crusaders. Too bad its other plot line is a run-of-the-mill exercise hobbled by a predictable story and vague characterizations.
Tired of being a wallflower at school, Dave (Aaron Johnson) decides his path to self-actualization is to become a real-life superhero. Familiar with comic book lore, he dons a costume, takes on another identity, which he calls “Kick-Ass,” and trawls the urban landscape looking for wrongs to right. Dave soon finds he’s in over his head after taking a severe beating while defending a man from three hooligans. However, the incident is caught on video, spreads across the Internet and soon Kick-Ass is a media sensation, so much so that local crime boss Frank D’Amico (Mark Strong) begins to suspect the recent hits on his organization are being perpetrated by the hero.
Dave’s story is a riff on the Peter Parker/Spider-Man tale and it’s a weak one at that. Johnson elicits little interest as Dave or his alter ego and his exploits, particularly when he’s joined by Red Mist (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), are bland and predictable. During the Kick-Ass storyline, the script does little to distinguish itself from other superhero stories as triumph, failure and redemption all occur on cue. There’s no sense of daring here and Dave comparing his awkward feats of heroism to the amazing feats he reads about in comic books is what passes for parody.
However, the film comes alive when chronicling the adventures of Big Daddy and Hit Girl (Nicolas Cage and Chloe Moretz), a father-daughter crime-fighting duo whose exploits Kick-Ass has accidentally stumbled into. Inspired by Batman and Robin, these two light up the screen with blood-soaked exploits laced with sardonic commentary that jumpstarts the story. Channeling Adam West, Cage gives an ironic, poignant and entertaining performance as a man whose obsession consumes not only him but his family as well. Moretz is equally engaging, sweet as pie then hard as nails when she puts the bad guys in their place. To be sure, her character will be offensive to some as she dispatches the villains with bloody precision while her taunting quips would make a sailor blush. However, Moretz elicits enough sympathy when she’s out of costume that we come to look at her in a sympathetic light, recognizing that she’s an innocent who’s been molded by her father’s vengeful behavior.
Cage and Moretz provide an energy the rest of the movie sorely lacks. Had the focus been on their characters, Kick-Ass would have been truly special. However, Vaughn winds up too enamored with the genre to truly put it through its paces. In the end, the film is so busy unsuccessfully trying to parody other films that it winds up having no identity of its own.
Contact Chuck Koplinski at email@example.com.