Kick-Ass (Aaron Johnson) and Hit-Girl (Chloe Grace Moretz) are unlikely allies in the superhero spoof "Kick-Ass." © 2013 Universal Pictures

(Reviewed April 15, 2010, by James Dawson)

Wonderfully silly and hyper-violently hilarious, "Kick-Ass" also manages to be lovingly affectionate toward the superhero traditions it sends up. This movie is a smartass fanboy's wet dream—and isn't just about everyone a smartass fanboy by now?

Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson) is a comic-book-loving geek who can't figure out why nobody in the real world ever has tried emulating superheroes by putting on a costume and fighting crime. He mail-orders a green wet suit with an identity-concealing hood, fails disastrously in his first attempt as Kick-Ass to confront bad guys, but becomes a YouTube sensation when he takes a later licking and keeps on ticking.

While that "Peter Parker without powers" setup is amusing, it's two other characters who end up stealing the movie. Damon Macready (Nicolas Cage) is a wrongly accused ex-cop teaching his adorable, pint-sized 11-year-old daughter Mindy (Chloe Grace Moretz) everything from the proper use of a butterfly knife to how to take a bullet to the chest. In his alter ego as the outrageously lethal Big Daddy, Damon speaks with halted Adam West cadences that will be familiar to anyone who remembers the 1960s "Batman" TV series.

In costume as Hit-Girl, Mindy is a tiny tornado of miniature martial arts mayhem. She's also unbelievably, laugh-out-loud foul-mouthed. Okay, maybe hearing a pre-teen using the "c" word, the "m" word, and several other choice bits of profanity isn't the height of sophisticated wit. But just try not laughing when the little darling describes a thug who is about to meet his end in a car crusher by saying, "What a douche."

Adapted from the "Kick-Ass" comics series by Mark Millar and John Romita Jr., the screenplay by Jane Goldman and director Matthew Vaughn builds to an audience-ovation finale, complete with the requisite possible-sequel cliffhanger. The script is full of self-deprecating dialog gems, such as Kick-Ass noting that his "only superpower was being invisible to girls," bemoaning the fact that he is "just a stupid dick in a wet suit," and noting that "with no power comes no responsibility." Cage frequently refers to his daughter as "child" in a way that's appealingly goofy, and fanboy in-jokes include a movie marquee promoting "The Spirit 3."

Even the traditional "hero beatdown" scene, in which the protagonist of every superhero movie is pummeled to within a millimeter of his life before getting his mojo back, is given a clever twist here. In voiceover, Kick-Ass warns the audience not to assume that just because he is narrating events means he survives, pointing out that "Sunset Boulevard," "American Beauty" and "Sin City" all were narrated by dead men.

Highly recommended!

Back Row Reviews Grade: B+