Critics Consensus

Critics Consensus: Kick-Ass 2 Misses the Target; Lee Daniels' The Butler is Moving and Well-Acted

Plus, Paranoia is a misfire, and Jobs fails to get inside its subject's head.

by | August 15, 2013 | Comments

This week at the movies, we’ve got teenage superheroes (Kick-Ass 2, starring Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Chloe Grace Moretz); a White House domestic worker (Lee Daniels’ The Butler, starring Forest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey); corporate killers (Paranoia, starring Liam Hemsworth and Gary Oldman); and a tech titan (Jobs, starring Ashton Kutcher and Dermot Mulroney). What do the critics have to say?

Kick-Ass 2

32%

The first Kick-Ass was a canny mix of ultra-violence and dark humor that busted through taboos and earned an appreciative cult audience. But sequels are known for taking what once seemed fresh and making it stale, and critics say that while Kick-Ass 2 maintains the energy and bad taste of the original, it’s largely bereft of any saving wit or satirical ambitions. This time out, Kick-Ass (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) is being targeted by his old frenemy Red Mist (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), while Hit Girl (Chloe Grace Moretz) discovers that her high school classmates can be as ruthless as any supervillain. The pundits say the cast (particularly Moretz) is fine, but the trouble is that the film’s once- transgressive sense of humor now comes across as merely sadistic and unsavory. (Check out this week’s Total Recall, in which we count down co-star Jim Carrey’s best-reviewed movies, and check out our gallery of cinematic vigilantes.)

Lee Daniels’ The Butler

72%

Bringing history to life on screen is no small task, but it’s made considerably easier if you have a great cast at your disposal. Critics say Lee Daniels’ The Butler benefits from outstanding performances that lend gravitas to an earnest, ambitious look at a few decades’ worth of African American history. The film chronicles America’s social changes and political upheaval from the mid-1950s to the 1980s through the eyes of Cecil Gaines (Forest Whitaker), a butler whose employment in the White House spans eight presidential administrations. The pundits say Lee Daniels’ The Butler has moments of contrivance, but overall it’s a thoughtful and deeply affecting look at our tumultuous recent past.

Paranoia

7%

It’s got a cast of hot newcomers (Liam Hemsworth, Amber Heard) and reliable old pros (Harrison Ford, Gary Oldman) as well as a timely theme (corporate chicanery); unfortunately, what Paranoia lacks, say critics, is a believable script and a sense of tension. Liam Hemsworth stars as an ambitious tech firm employee who finds himself in a deadly world of intrigue after his boss (Oldman) tasks him with stealing a competitor’s cell phone prototype. The pundits say Paranoia mostly goes through the motions, failing to generate much interest in its predictable plotting and unsurprising twists. (Watch our video interviews with the stars of Paranoia here.)

Jobs

28%

Apple co-founder and CEO Steve Jobs was many things to many people; those who knew him described him as an innovator, a perfectionist, a wellspring of charisma, and a petty tyrant. Unfortunately, critics say Jobs spends too much time on the events in its subject’s life and not enough on the man in all his complexities. The movie follows Jobs (Ashton Kutcher) from the early days of Apple to the triumph of the iPod; the pundits say the script is mostly surface-level, following the biopic formula without bringing its fascinating central character to life.

Also opening this week in limited release:

  • Cutie And The Boxer, a documentary about the complex marriage of two accomplished Japanese painters, is at 96 percent.

  • This Is Martin Bonner, a drama about a recently-divorced man who gets a job helping parolees readjust to society, is at 91 percent.

  • Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, starring Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck in a drama about an imprisoned bank robber and the woman and child he left behind, is at 76 percent.

  • The Patience Stone, a drama about a woman in an unnamed Middle Eastern country who shares a lifetime of pent-up frustrations with her badly injured husband, is at 71 percent.

  • Austenland, starring Keri Russell and Bret McKenzie in a comedy about an obsessive Pride and Prejudice fan who finds romance at a Jane Austen-themed resort, is at 39 percent.

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