There are times in “Kingsman: The Golden Circle” when the film’s cleverness and glib violence can grate. This hyperventilating spy comedy is extremely superficial.
Then again, if you’ve got a scene where the spies are shooting it out on a 1950s diner set using a giant rolling donut for cover, while nearby Elton John (yes, Elton himself) is dressed in a Technicolored-feather suit while drop-kicking some bad guys as “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting” plays on the soundtrack, well, you might have to surrender to the absurdity of it all.
That’s my advice. I was finally won over by this movie’s endless parade of zany ideas and ridiculous gadgets.
A sequel to the 2014 film “Kingsman: The Secret Service,” this one extends the idea of a clandestine brigade of superspies masquerading as high-end tailors.
Our hero, Eggsy (Taron Egerton), must adapt his veddy British Kingsman training and join forces with an American counterpart organization known as Statesman. Jeff Bridges and Channing Tatum are among the members of this rank (disguised by their front business at a Kentucky distillery), although we actually don’t see that much of them.
The villain is called Poppy, played with lip-smacking glee by Julianne Moore. She has kidnapped Elton John, although apparently only for her own amusement; her true aim is to blackmail the craven U.S. president (Bruce Greenwood) to increase the profits of her pharmaceutical empire.
She forces Sir Elton to play his old hits. He’s lucky; when she really doesn’t like people, Poppy feeds them into a meat grinder, as we see in a sequence played entirely for laughs.
Meanwhile, Eggsy is aided by his Kingsman tech wizard (Mark Strong) and reunited with his mentor (Colin Firth). The Statesman crew includes Halle Berry, perhaps positioning herself for the next sequel, and Pedro Pascal (from “Narcos”), whose resemblance to 70s-vintage Burt Reynolds is emphasized as much as possible.
There’s a 007-worthy escapade on Mont Blanc, and a rip-snorting opening chase through the streets of London. Returning director Matthew Vaughn, who has spent much of his career trying to out-Guy Ritchie Guy Ritchie, is faster and jokier than ever.
From its amazingly callous erasing of main characters to its winking use of John Denver songs (why is this such a thing in movies now? See also “Logan Lucky” and “Free Fire”), this movie is skin-deep. But I found myself laughing out loud at some of the wilder gags anyway. Given how somber the recent James Bond movies have gotten, maybe they could use a dose of “Kingsman” silliness.
“Kingsman: The Golden Circle” (3 stars)
A superficial but wildly energetic sequel to the 2014 movie about a clandestine British secret service. In this one, our hero (Taron Egerton) joins forces with his U.S. counterparts to defeat a villain (Julianne Moore). A glib enterprise, but some of the ideas are laugh-out-loud funny. With Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Pedro Pascal, Channing Tatum and Halle Berry.
Rating: R, for violence, language
Opening Friday: Alderwood, Alderwood Mall, Cinebarre Mountlake Terrace, Everett Stadium, Galaxy Monroe, Marysville, Stanwood Cinemas, Meridian, Oak Tree, Pacific Place, Sundance Cinemas, Thornton Place Stadium, Woodinville, Cascade Mall, Oak Harbor Plaza