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Tween killer from 'Kick-Ass': Too grown up?

OPINION: By Michael Avila In terms of courting controversy, the biggest star at the multiplex these days is a little girl who is handy with butterfly knives and ninja swords. I'm talking about Hit Girl, a character in the recently released superhero film “Kick-Ass.” Young actress Chloe Moretz has simultaneously earned raves and revulsion for her performance as the pint-sized, 11-year-old

OPINION: By Michael Avila In terms of courting controversy, the biggest star at the multiplex these days is a little girl who is handy with butterfly knives and ninja swords. I'm talking about Hit Girl, a character in the recently released superhero film “Kick-Ass.” Young actress Chloe Moretz has simultaneously earned raves and revulsion for her performance as the pint-sized, 11-year-old killing machine. Special interests groups are outraged, calling the film a disgusting example of Hollywood immorality at its worst (or finest?). Some people are even slamming director Matthew Vaughn for what they see as the sexualization of an 11-year-old girl. Frankly, I don’t understand this argument at all. Yes, Hit Girl piles up a ridiculously high number of kills in the movie, and drops enough f-bombs and other verbal unmentionables to make Quentin Tarantino blush. Her bloodthirsty behavior is incredibly inappropriate. But in terms of being "sexualized" in some perverse manner, I’m sorry. I’m not seeing it, and I’ve seen the film twice. Is “Kick-Ass” inappropriate? In many ways, yes. Irresponsible? Hardly. I found the movie to be a rather brilliant piece of satire that pokes loving fun at the comic book genre that spawned the story (“Kick-Ass” is based on a Mark Millar/John Romita Jr. comic series). A large part of why I enjoyed it is because Hit Girl is such a fascinating character. Her father in the film (Big Daddy, played by Nicolas Cage) loves her in a very sweet, completely insane manner. He gives her pop quizzes on weapons and shoots her in the chest – she’s wearing a bulletproof vest -- to prepare her for the inevitable moment when some bad guy takes aim at her. Like I said, Big Daddy is certifiable. But it’s all part of the joke. Along with upending most comic book archetypes, “Kick-Ass” in particular lampoons the "hero and sidekick" story that’s been a staple of comic books since forever. Is the Big Daddy-Hit Girl relationship any less dysfunctional than say, Batman and Robin? Bruce Wayne didn’t exactly follow the parenting handbook when he decided to train his young ward Dick Grayson for a life of crime fighting. Is it the costume that makes Hit Girl uncomfortable for some parents? She wears tights and a cape but it’s more in keeping with superhero tradition than going for fetishistic appeal. Vaughn never shoots Moretz in a way that even hints of sexy. There are several other touches, like the use of the theme song from the old Saturday morning TV show “The Banana Splits Show” during one of Hit Girl’s killing sprees that accentuate the character’s strange … sweetness. If the character was Hit Boy, would we be having this discussion? Perhaps we'd be talking about the violence, but the entire "sexualized" issue would be non-existent. Look, “Kick-Ass” is rated R for good reason. It’s ridiculously violent and profane. It’s also a movie that a great many adult critics praised. Why? Because it’s a movie made for grownups. Of course, the fact that a tiny tween girl assassin steals the movie is probably tempting many underage kids to plot ways to sneak in to see “Kick-Ass.” I did the same thing when I was a wee lad lured by the creepy TV ads for “The Shining.” Keeping children out of R-rated movies is something parents have been dealing with since before talkies existed. How you deal with it is up to each individual parent. My wife Cindi and I are expecting our first child (a girl!) in August. I can say with reasonable certainty of mind that there is no way I would let her see “Kick-Ass” before she was 13. It’s too violent. Of course, times and tolerance change. What is acceptable now might have been outrageous a generation earlier. Thanks to the always-connected multimedia world we live in now, children are exposed to adult themes at a much earlier age. Like it or not, that’s the way it is. Actually, children are so much more aware of the world around them now than in years past, it’s a safe bet most kids who find Hit Girl cool are in on the joke. After all, many of them have probably already read the comic book. Parents should exercise caution and common sense when deciding whether or not to let their kids see “Kick-Ass.” They should also make that choice for the right reasons. If you have a problem with severed limbs, exploding body parts and gallons of spilled blood, then keep the kids far away from this movie. The same goes if you don’t want to hear underage kids with ninja swords dropping four-letter obscenities. But if your primary concern is inappropriate sexual themes, then you can relax. “Kick-Ass” is not the movie to be worried about. “The Professional,” on the other hand, you may want to block from the Netflix queue. Michael Avila is the former executive producer of the nationally syndicated movie show "Reel Talk." A proud pop culture geek, he is also a contributing writer for websites such as msnbc.com, Newsarama.com and GeekWeek.com. Related review: Hilarious 'Kick-Ass' delivers bloody fun