Too much of a good thing can be wonderful. Too much of a good thing can also be … well, just too much. Last month’s Marvel Universe release, Avengers: Infinity War, is still packing 'em in at theaters but makes way for this month’s latest superhero flick, Deadpool 2.
Directed by David (Atomic Blonde) Leitch (“One of the guys who shot the dog in John Wick,” announces the titles) and written by Reynolds, Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese (the latter two of Zombieland), the sequel kicks off by taking well-aimed comic shots at other Marvel and DC superhero flicks, followed by a dead-on Maurice Binder-style James Bond title sequence, complete with a broody, nonsensical theme song warbled by Celine Dion. Our cynical, scarred hero, Wade Wilson, and the love of his life, Vanessa (Morena Baccarin), have settled into a kind of domestic bliss that includes watching Barbra Streisand on TV in Yentl, and contemplating parenthood.
Fate and tragedy kick all that to the curb, though, and Wade becomes a despondent, actively suicidal barfly. The cosmic joke is, of course, he cannot die, no matter how many times and ways he tries. It’s up to the mighty, titanium-clad Russian named Colossus (Stefan Kapicic voices him) to drag Wade back into the light, and against Wilson's will, train him to join the the B-team of X-Men … as an intern. This unexpected turn brings Wade into the orbit of angry, fireball-spewing mutant kid Russell (Julian Dennison, a standout here and in Hunt for the Wilderpeople), one of the many kids who’ve been abused in an asylum for other unusual kids, presided over by a deeply creepy headmaster (Eddie Marsan, given way too little screen time). Wilson and Russell form an uneasy father-child bond that leads to redemption. Are you thinking Wolverine yet? You should be.
Although the team includes Bill Skarsgard as Zeitgeist, Terry Crews as Bedlam, Lewis Tan as Shatterstar, Rob Delaney as Peter and [a big star cameo not to be spoiled here] as Vanisher, it’s Domino (Zazie Beetz) who makes the standout impression. Her superhero power is “luck”—“Not very cinematic,” cracks Deadpool—and she is so instantly likable and kick-ass as a member of X-Force (spinoff flick to come), that we should probably expect some on-and-off romantic stuff going on with Deadpool down the road.
Deadpool is the angry, grieving, self-centered, sardonic role that Ryan Reynolds was born to play.
The problem is that Reynolds, and the movie itself, seem to want us to think the meta humor is cutting-edge, wickedly clever and provocative. Whacking at low-hanging fruit like Jared Kushner, Wolverine, lame rock bands, dubstep, an old John Cusack movie, Reynolds’ career choices, Star Wars, superhero mothers named Martha, pointless CGI fight sequences and Fox? The audience congratulates itself on getting all the references. OK, we’ve seen the same movies, listened to the same tunes, absorbed the same headlines. So freaking what?
Deadpool movies ought to chomp down on its targets with fangs, not gums. Reynolds, front and center throughout, gives it his considerable all. It’s the angry, grieving, self-centered, sardonic role he was born to play, but sometimes you want him to either serve up truly killer one-liners and rants, or just shut the hell up. With the imminent takeover of Fox by family-friendly, franchise-loving, nobody-smokes-in-a-movie Disney, we wish Deadpool 2 were as irreverent, revolutionary and backbiting as it deserves to be. Now that would have been subversive.
- Wicked one-liners fly—along with severed limbs—as Ryan Reynolds returns to the role he was born to play
- Danger: quip-overload alert