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“Kick-Ass”: As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a superhero.

“Kick-Ass”: As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a superhero.  (photo)

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Reviewed at the 2010 SXSW Film Festival.

Matthew Vaughn’s “Kick-Ass” has one complicated relationship with fanboy culture — specifically the comic book superhero-loving variety. On one hand, it’s a kinetic, funny, violent and righteously entertaining flick that’s bound to please anyone with a soft spot for stories in which someone costumes up and fights crime, which, these days, is almost everybody. On the other, it’s a critique of that very fascination, suggesting that if you really want your life to be less ordinary, you should consider actually getting a life — escaping the escapism, bounding off the couch and, if you’re lucky, maybe even finding a way to get laid. Ready or not, here comes the meta-fanboy movie the world deserves, one that manages to have its cake and eat it too.

New York high schooler Dave Lizewski is unexceptional in every way except that he’s played by Aaron Johnson (also someday to be seen playing young John Lennon in “Nowhere Boy”), who’s so clearly going to be a big movie star that the idea of him being ignored by his female classmates requires a bigger suspension of disbelief than the events that unfold. Neither popular nor terminal nerds, Dave and his two best friends have been coasting through their teenage years, entertaining themselves with the aforementioned comic books, surfing the web and jerking off to thoughts of their English teacher’s considerable endowments.

03122010_kickass3.jpgIt’s frustration with that passivity and the fact that the majority of those around him seem to be living life as a spectator sport — like the man who sees the trio getting mugged in a parking lot from his apartment window and just shuts his curtains — that prompts Dave to make himself a costume out of a green scuba suit, yellow gloves and hiking boots (it never looks anything but ridiculous) and come up with an alter-ego: Kick-Ass. “Like every serial killer already knew, eventually fantasizing just doesn’t do it anymore” he observes in the running voice-over, and soon he’s trying to stop the two thugs who stole his wallet earlier from jacking a car. And, like anyone whose practical fighting experience is limited to air punches in front of a mirror, he’s woefully underprepared, and almost gets killed.

To use the treasured film critic term, scopophilia is what’s weighing on “Kick-Ass”‘s universe. Everyone is so steeped in media intake, from movies to television to graphic novels, that it’s warping their behavior — even the bad guys, a crime syndicate presided over by Mark Strong’s sadistic Frank D’Amico, seem to be styling themselves after people they’ve seen on screen. “I’ve always wanted to say this,” one smirks as he picks up some especially heavy weaponry. “Say hello to my little friend!” When Kick-Ass tries the superhero stunt again, attempting to save a man from a gang beating, he becomes an internet celebrity because the guy he asked to call 911 gathers a crowd who record the fight on their cell phones instead. And when he meets some “real” superheroes, a father and daughter pair who go by Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage, doing enjoyably weird as opposed to “er, what’s going on here?” weird) and Hit Girl (13-year-old Chloe Moretz), they’re even deeper into comic book land than he is, with Cage’s character, otherwise known as Damon Macready, documenting their tale of tragedy and vengeance out panel by unhinged panel.

03122010_kickass2.jpgThe relationship between Macready and his child, real name Mindy, is a psychedelic swirl of aw-shucks, “Leave It To Beaver”-style nurturing and splatter-filled annihilation. (The one between Frank and his neglected son, played by Christopher Mintz-Plasse, is its own mix of regulation daddy issues — “Eat your oatmeal!” — and operatic villainy.) Mindy, a foul-mouthed four-and-a-half-foot dynamo who wears a mask and a purple wig when slicing through thugs as Hit Girl, of course walks away with the movie. Any urgings to stop gawping and start doing fall by the wayside in the face of a meticulously choreographed sequence in which a transgressively little girl destroys a dozen mobsters, reloading, slow-mo, in mid-air — why else do we while away beautiful summer afternoons in dark theaters if not to gape at ludicrous, glorious schlock spectacle like that? And though it muddies its message, “Kick-Ass” has to tip its hat to its own inner fanboy in those moments, or when the bloodied but triumphant Dave tells the kid with a camera the name he’s invented for himself, or in a euphoric finale enabled by a bit of earlier online shopping. We could all do with a little more engagement. That doesn’t mean we can’t still acknowledge when something’s totally sweet.

“Kick-Ass” will be released by Lionsgate on April 16th.

[Photos: “Kick-Ass,” Lionsgate, 2010]

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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