It should be of no surprise that Ebert didn’t enjoy Kick-Ass, which to him is a morally bankrupt piece of empty satire.
The early scenes give promise of an entirely different comedy. Aaron Johnson has a certain anti-charm, his problems in high school are engaging, and so on. A little later, I reflected that possibly only Nic Cage could seem to shoot a small girl point-blank and make it, well, funny. Say what you will about her character, but Chloe Grace Moretz has presence and appeal. Then the movie moved into dark, dark territory, and I grew sad.
Tonally, these types of movies are always difficult to pull-off. Is it supposed to be a joke we laugh at? Laugh with? Or is it supposed to be taken seriously?
Harry Knowles, who’s reviews can’t be taken seriously anymore, but who’s perspective on film and culture can be, offers this:
KICK ASS is, essentially a satire of the world of comics. KICK ASS specifically is playing in the same sort of universe as Stan Lee’s MARVEL… just modernized and made as a point about how unrealistic the very notion of Superheroes are. But make no bones about it – it is made for Adults. Adults raised on an entire lifetime of comics that’s specific dream was of bringing Superheroes into a realistic world.
And yet, the comic’s author, Mark Millar, offers his view on it:
But I do think it’s fun, writing right-wing characters. I’ve found it interesting, just as a writer, to get inside their heads and make them likeable. Like the Captain America in The Ultimates at Marvel, I had great fun writing him, even though technically it isn’t what I believe in. But I quite like some things, as long as I don’t meet them in real life, I suppose. Those kinds of guys, those John Wayne, everything’s-black-and-white kind of guys. Even the conscious liberal, like me, on some level kind of gets off on that, you know? Like Charlton Heston and Planet Of The Apes and so on, these all-American heroes. There’s something weirdly likeable about seeing the world in those John Wayne, black-and-white terms, so I quite fancied writing a series starring someone like that. And that’s originally what Big Daddy and Hit-Girl was going to be; it was going to be like The Punisher with his little daughter.
The best part of all this is having a genuinely geeky movie that can be debated. Is it morally bankrupt? Is it commenting on America’s obsession with violence? Ad infinitum. You don’t generally get that level of discourse in your first summer popcorn flick.