My Victorian-fiction professor once told me that any work, highbrow or low, can rightly be subjected to serious criticism and review. Of course, he hadn’t seen Kingsman: The Golden Circle. This is a film whose success should be measured not in stiff-collared discourse about heteronormative allegory or in spelunking for meaning in its meandering plot, but on a giant, rainbow-lit wacky-meter.

Put somewhat differently: Citizen Kane it’s not, but The Golden Circle sure aims straight for the rosebud.

The sequel to 2014’s Kingsman: The Secret Service, Golden Circle returns to its predecessor’s proven formula of swagger, wire stunts, lifestyle branding, and ultra-violence. (If you liked the first one, you ought to like this; but do see it first, as ping-backs come fast here.)

This time around, when the Kingsman HQ, shop, and most of its agents are obliterated in Act One, Eggsy (Taron Egerton) and Merlin (Mark Strong) seek the help of “Statesman,” Kingsman’s American equivalent. Cue the cowboy hats, lassos, molasses drawls, and bourbon, and trot out Channing Tatum, Jeff Bridges, Halle Berry, and Pedro Pascal. Then marvel as do-no-wrong director Matthew Vaughn expertly molds his Savile Row spy tropes around hokey Kentucky charm. The whole thing’s a total hoot.

Before long, Kingsman & Statesman join forces to pursue another wild and hyperbolic villain, this one played not by Academy Award nominee Samuel L. Jackson but by Academy Award Winner Julianne Moore. I’ll leave her character’s evil plot for you to discover, but she’s a cutesy smooth-talker with a taste for legalization, 50s-era diners,  homicidal robots, and Elton John.

Some people will straight up hate this movie; they’ll complain that it’s overlong, meaningless, and takes itself too seriously. But I loved it. Why? Maybe it takes a special kind of viewer to appreciate Vaughn’s self-referential homage to/spoof of the spy genre. (Ceci n’est pas James Bond, after all.) Perhaps my appetites for vivid color and homicidal comedic excess run more stout than the norm. Or maybe some people are just gloomy, know-nothing squares. Take your pick.

Golden Circle may not make the most sense, but it bounces giddily between radiant set pieces and from one manic fight scene to the next. There’s less character development this time around — okay, pretty much none — but so what? Golden Circle offers up iconic characters and dazzling (sometimes lurid) visuals, some suitably heavy-handed political commentary (what other kind is there, when the real life President is so burlesque?), and a couple of riotous Elton John cameos. It’s an exuberant good time, one with cult classic written all over it. Have some sugar, and see this.

Haus Verdict: A raucous, star-studded, and slyly smirking two-and-a-quarter-hour SFX fiesta that’s a shade less clever than the first but altogether just as fun. 

Kingsman: The Golden Circle opens Friday September 22.

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