Kick-Ass (R) ★★★★

Review Date: March 13th, 2010

Parodies are a dying art. I hate to say it — because I love them so much — but over the last few years, the unrelenting hacks known as Friedberg and Seltzer have systematically killed the art form with their brainless pop culture-stroking disguised as commentary. I remember the good ole' days of Abrams and Zucker (prior to their Scary Movie entanglements) when parodies where funny precisely because they established their own voice, and didn't use the material they were lampooning as a crutch. Airplane! mercilessly mocked the bizarre run of airport disaster movies in the '70s, but it also transcended easy jokes and script aping. Today, thanks to inexplicable box office validation, an entire generation now thinks that the "Random celebrity, what are you doing here?" gag is the appropriate formula for parody.

Kick-Ass is going to put a giant boot in the face of that mentality. It is a pitch-perfect send-up of everything that is characteristic of superhero films. It is versed enough to cite convention, but clever enough to find the humor in the genre's absurdity. And the biggest advantage Kick-Ass has in the parody department is that it is unrelentingly entertaining. It seems that in the last few years, terrible parodies have made undeserved fortunes at the box office while better-crafted entries have gone largely unseen. Kick-Ass, on the other hand, has all the necessary components to clean up at the box office and be well deserving of its success.

The performances in the film are all top notch. Nicolas Cage showcases yet again how he can make his personal lunacy work very effectively under the right conditions. The overly Leave It To Beaver dialogue he and his daughter exchange prior to assuming their crime-fighting alter egos is charmingly silly, and if you don't get a kick out of his channeling of Adam West from the 60's Batman series when he is in the suit, I highly suggest a humor implant immediately. Aaron Johnson, in the title role, plays the lovable loser to perfection. He brings a lot of heart to the character that drives the emotional crux of the film. And as much as Christopher Mintz-Plasse is the most recognizable young actor in the film, it's Chloe Moretz as Hit Girl who totally McLovins the film; stealing every scene she's in. The personality, comedic timing, and ruthlessness that she brings to this character demonstrate a talent level well in advance of her age.

In terms of the treatment of the teenaged characters in the film, this script is tantamount to something written by the late, great John Hughes in so much as the teens are allowed to speak honestly and in their own limited vocabulary without the pretense of wit. I think teen comedies are improving dramatically of late, but the obsession with making teens pithy wordsmiths baffles me to no end and I'm glad they were allowed to just be vulgar. And my God this thing is vulgar…and violent to boot. We get to watch an 11 year-old drop f-bombs and stab thugs in the forebrain. I mean come on, the movie is called Kick-Ass for a reason and while it is a comedy, the action sequences are unstoppably exhilarating.

A smart, somewhat genre subversive parody, Kick-Ass is also action-packed and entertaining enough to stand on its own two legs as a film and not just a lampoon. The costumes, the music, the fight choreography all work in harmony to bring us a blockbuster superhero film that is legitimately humorous in both its homages and honest characterizations. Do not miss this film. rated this film 4 stars.