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KINGSMEN: FOOLS GOLD

For Matthew Vaughn, too much is never enough. Excess, hand-in-hand with bad taste, marks most of his films, even when they’re entertaining. We can debate the merits of Kick-ass, but there’s not much to discuss when it comes to Kick-ass 2. It was bereft of ideas and existed for no other reason than to bilk moviegoers out of the price of admission.The same must be said for this inevitable sequel to Kingsman. There’s no reason why it should run nearly two and a half hours, and even less justification for wasting the considerable talents of its cast, with thankless parts for Jeff Bridges, Channing Tatum, and Halle Berry. I didn’t enjoy watching the great Julianne Moore playing a perky (but deadly) villain or Emily Watson in a glorified cameo as the Vice President of the United States. Another major British actor (who shall remain nameless, for spoiler’s sake) is dispatched early on, which spares him further humiliation.

Kingsman: The Secret Service was based on a clever comic book by Mark Miller and Dave Gibbons. The 2014 film captured most of its cheeky charm, until we got to a scene in which Colin Firth committed an unspeakable atrocity. The new picture doesn’t waste time building up to that level of gruesomeness; it has barely begun when a character is sent head-first into a meat-grinder.

The movie also suffers the disappointment that comes with any sequel: the novelty is gone. In the first film, a working-class street tough (Taron Egerton) is recruited by a secret society that is headquartered in an elegant Savile Row tailor shop. With superb British actors like Firth, Mark Strong and Michael Caine on hand, it had all the right ingredients.

Now, Egerton’s character is established and has nowhere to go. Vaughn and co-screenwriter Jane Goldman are running on empty and try to fill that void with a trip to America and a galaxy of stars, but their ideas are wan. They even undermine an amusing appearance from Elton John by beating it to death.

I don’t suppose my objections will matter to anyone, least of all the highly successful filmmakers. For all I know they may be plotting a third installment of this so-called franchise. I shudder at the thought.

Leonard Maltin is one of the world’s most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, now in its third edition, as well as his thirty-year run on television’s Entertainment Tonight. He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and appears regularly on Reelz Channel and Turner Classic Movies. His books include The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia. He served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a voting member of the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation. He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He has been the recipient of awards from the American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park. (Or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?) He holds court at leonardmaltin.com. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook; you can also listen to him on his weekly podcast: Maltin on Movies. — [Artwork by Drew Friedman]

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