Courtesy: 20th Century Fox

Film

'Deadpool 2' Keeps the Jokes Flying—and the Body Parts, Too

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.

The R-rated 2016 box office smash Deadpool, star Ryan Reynolds’ long-in-the-works, F-bomb spewing passion project, was a bloody, merrily subversive festival of raunch, a genre-busting, gut-busting, nose-thumb at superhero movie absurdities and clichés. Deadpool 2, which packs plenty of fun, snark, heart, self-referential shtick and mayhem, is more of the same. Lots of it works, some of it doesn’t.

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. 
In pursuit of Russell for complicated plot reasons is gloomy, ripped and shredded time-traveler Cable, a nice one-two punch performance for Josh Brolin, Avengers’ Thanos, who gives his Deadpool 2 character pathos and gravitas. To battle Cable and save Russell, Deadpool needs backup—hey, if he can’t die, he at least wants a franchise—so we get a very funny scene in which he auditions potential superheroes exactly the way a producer or director would cast a movie or tv show, right down to thumbing through the wildly flattering headshots.

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.
But really, despite the sarcastic, know-it-all send-ups, all we’re really getting here is another superhero fighting force and a romantic couple, only with in-jokes and winks. Aren’t the Guardians of the Galaxy and Thor movies already doing the jokey, wink-y stuff and flirting with self-parody? The beheadings, disembowelments, slicing and dicing of body parts come as fast and furious as Deadpool’s motor-mouthed jokes, insults and pop-cultural references. It's not hard to imagine a snark-off between him and Tony Stark.

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. 

Deadpool 2

Pros
Wicked one-liners fly—along with severed limbs—as Ryan Reynolds returns to the role he was born to play
Cons
Danger: quip-overload alert
Rating: 2.5 out of 4 bunnies

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