(Image courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox via EPK.tv)
DEADPOOL 2— 4 STARS
With Deadpool 2, an escalated budget from the smash success of the first film has amplified both the genius marketing and the souped-up product on screen. The challenges for this sequel were always going to be stamina and avoiding the diminishing returns that comes from increased expectations. How long could Ryan Reynolds and company keep pushing their approach of self-aware digs and gags before it grates and becomes an acquired taste? How far can that act go before it becomes the thing it started out mocking? The answer for both questions is plenty.
John Wick and Atomic Blonde director David Leitch takes over for Tim Miller to enlarge the eccentric excesses. The flames are fattened, the bloodshed is bolstered, and the hail of hot lead is heightened as all of these wild elements compose a parade of profanity and dirty delights. Before a highly-stylized opening credit sequences sets out to lampoon James Bond films, complete with a Celine Dion power ballad, The Merc with a Mouth and Artist Formerly Known as Green Lantern begins where he left off, breaking the fourth wall and clinging to his main squeeze Vanessa (Morena Baccarin) as an unreliable narrator proclaiming Deadpool 2 to be a family film. You don’t say?! Middle-finger to the law!
LESSON #1: “FAMILY” IS AN F-WORD— As crazy at it sounds, Wade Wilson is not wrong. Therefore, keep muffing the young ears and covering the naive eyes. The sarcastically lofty arcs of character growth for the anti-hero with his heart in the right place surround strengthening and increasing his family circle of brothers from other mothers and sisters from other misters.
A superhero playground of double-dutch and hopscotch ensues around all the action comedy set pieces. Deadpool is begrudgingly recruited to help the X-Men try to calm and corral a powerful fire-wielding teen mutant named Russell (Julian Dennison of Hunt for the Wilderpeople) who has been severely abused at an orphanage targeting those with special abilities. Bearing the lame jersey of a trainee, Wade is more about breaking the rules than accepting the supervising tutelage of Colossus (voiced by a Stefan Kapičić). Meanwhile, a time-traveling soldier from the future named Cable (Josh Brolin) has seen, with great personal cost, the destructive danger that Russell will become.
Cable has come backward to this present to kill the boy before he can ever become a mass murderer. Outmatched by the heavily-armed and cybernetically-enhanced brute, Deadpool recruits his own “X-Force” of misfit mutants. His squad comprised of Zazie Beetz’s ever-lucky Domino, Terry Crews’ bulky Bedlam, Lewis Tan’s sword-slinging Shatterstar, Bill Skarsgard’s acid-spewing Zeitgeist, an invisible surprise cameo as The Vanisher, and just some regular dude named Peter played by Rob Delaney join returning BFFs Weasel (the tarnished T.J. Miller), Blind Al (Leslie Uggams), and Dopinder the cab driver (Karan Soni) to take on this crazy conflict and cause.
LESSON #2: SPEAKING OF F-WORDS, “FINE” HAS A PERFECT ACRONYM— There is a hilarious gem of an acrostic poem (click here) flowing out of those four letters. It is waiting to be exploited as a labeling counterattack to those who give that one word answer of “fine” to a clearly evident problem. Add this acronym to your callouts.
Bouncing to the tune of dubstep merged with Tyler Bates’ soused score, Deadpool 2 can earn a cinematic track and field medal for its death-defying decathalon of sprints, stunts, jumps, hurdles, and objects being upended every which way and thrown across the screen for, as these filmmakers like to say, maximum effort. The visual effects supervised by frequent Wachowski collaborator Dan Glass (Cloud Atlas, The Matrix Reloaded) are working overtime to sell the spectacle. Bigger can be better, overflowing with fan service and easter eggs galore, except when it’s too much.
Where those overkill flaws occur most is in the writing and direction. Reynolds is credited to join returning Writers Guild of America-nominated Deadpool screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick. The trio succeeds in introducing dynamic new characters while keeping Reynold’s punctual pizazz centrally inside the hogged spotlight. Brolin’s straight-man foil and Beetz’s badass coolness are welcome infusions into this one-man show. Looseness is the weakness. There is a tightness of direction and self-corrective editing that is missing at times. Many jokes, and even a few of the battles, linger a beat or two too long. There’s one more piece to that.
LESSON #3: SELF-PITY CAN MOMENTARILY RUIN A HERO— Continuing on that writing front, for a character advertised to be as fresh as Deadpool is, the pity-party-of-one trope we have seen in dozens of superhero stories (Spider-Man, Batman, The Thing, and more) rears its ugly head as the exhausting chief hangup of our main character in this sequel. There is a dash of failed destiny kicking Wade Wilson in the groin. That dreary sensation is stamped by intentionally cheesy greeting card lines like “kids give us a chance to be better than us” and “you can’t really live unless you die a little” and a Van Wilder callback of Styx’s “All Out of Love.”
No matter what, all of Deadpool 2 is nonsensical, of course, and there was no way this movie wasn’t going to be exactly what it is: FUN. That part doesn’t go away. Folks can try to champion the first film and this one as anti-comic-book-movie movies, but, make no mistake, both of these blockbusters end up becoming comic book movies anyway just with more willingness and success to subvert the formula. However, that ridiculous energy is precisely the charm people are flocking and paying to see over in this R-rated end of the marketplace across from its sunny and safe Marvel Cinematic Universe peers.
LOGO DESIGNED BY MEENTS ILLUSTRATED (#689)