Kick-Ass' Hits No. 1 at the Box Office, But Gets Its Ass Kicked by Prudes


In a squeaker race for Number One, the debuting Kick-Ass managed to rake in $19.8 million and edge past the $19.6 million earned by the 3-D animated family film How To Train Your Dragon in its fourth weekend. Still, Kick-Ass advocates were expecting $30 million. Why the shortfall? It's easy to blame the R rating slapped on Kick-Ass, based on the 2008 comic written by Mark Millar and drawn by John Romita Jr. You can't have Hit Girl, the film's 11-year-old heroine played by the dazzling Chloe Moretz, going around slaughtering villains like a butcher with a butterfly knife. What is really meant is that you can't have an 11-year-old calling her enemies "cunts." "Morally reprehensibe," harrumphed Roger Ebert.

Really? Really! How many of you who saw Kick-Ass were truly shocked by the Mamet language coming from the mouth of the babe? In The New Yorker, Anthony Lane called Kick-Ass "violence's answer to kiddie porn. You can see it in Hit Girl's outfit when she cons her way past security guards — white blouse, hair in pigtails, short tartan skirt — and in the winsome way that she pleads to be inculcated into grownup excess. That pleading is the dream of every pedophile."

Wow! And here I thought Kick-Ass director Matthew Vaughn and co-writer Jane Goldman were neatly subverting the comic book genre, letting fantasy bleed into reality. I thought the R rating would keep away the tykes and the intelligence of the script would be plainly apparent to grown-ups who don't need censors to protect them from so-called dangerous ideas. I also refuse to accept that the groundbreaking Kick-Ass is a failure because of controversy and a disappointing box office. Producers, including Brad Pitt, kept the cost down to a modest $30 million, guaranteeing them the right to experiment in ways Hollywood epics can't afford to do. For me, Kick-Ass is a celebration of the independent spirit that is being increasingly devalued by a pop culture that prefers 3-D gimmicks to artful storytelling and placebos to provocation.

What are your feelings about Kick-Ass? Would you like to see the movie thrive or let the moralists drive a stake through its heart?

The Travers Take Main Next


Peter Travers

Rolling Stone senior writer Peter Travers has reviewed movies for the magazine for more than 20 years. Send your comments and questions to him here.

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