2.5 stars (out of 4)
Start the Jeopardy! theme music and think of a comedy sequel that exceeds the original. Can’t do it, right? What seemed surprising, fresh and hilarious at the outset automatically breeds familiarity the second time around. That’s why Deadpool 2 was destined for disappointment. Even the anti-superhero’s brutally funny contempt for rival Wolverine loses a bit of luster because of the anticipated punch lines.
The clawed X-Men member is a source of about five barbs in Deadpool 2, and he has truckloads of company. Batman, Passion of the Christ, Eleven, Hawkeye, Yentyl, Dave Matthews, Patrick Stewart, Justin Bieber, Jared Kushner, Fox & Friends, Black Panther, Cher, dubstep, Frozen, and star Ryan Reynolds himself are just some targets that immediately jump out. Our favorite mercenary is merciless. Except that in two years, he’s gone from the goofy class clown to the annoying wiseass in the back room spewing crude insults to amuse himself.
He’d be the first person to admit it. Deadpool, who became an embittered mutant because of a sinister lab incident, is nothing if fully aware of his place in the cinematic universe. Early on, he boasts about his movie’s overseas box-office take. He also blasts the studio for not including more X-Men in his saga. Also, for spoiler’s sake: For those who didn’t see Logan, he pretty much ruins the end within the first two minutes.
And now, on with the wisp of the story! Wade Wilson was already miserable because his burned face resembles Freddy Krueger meets a Pizza Hut cheesy pie; now he’s ready to obliterate himself. His one true love (Morena Baccarin) is gone, and he’s a broken, un-killable man.
So then … know what? Deadpool likes to break the magical fourth wall so much that I’m going to take a cue for the rest of this review. All you need to know is that he recruits a bunch of misfit mutants — including Bedlam, Shatterstar, Domino and Peter — to protect a boy from a time-traveling villain named Cable (Josh Brolin). I’m foggy on Cable’s origins and motives. I’m also baffled as to how Brolin, our favorite former Goonie, was cast in the bad guy role in two Marvel movies this summer. Better believe our fast-talking title character is baffled as well.
Action scene, joke, action scene, joke, action scene joke, action scene set to cheesy pop ballad, joke about said cheesy pop ballad. Director David Leitch (John Wick) strictly adheres to this clunky formula in hopes that audiences will be too busy guffawing at the salty humor to care about the repetition. For the most part, the film gets away with it. One cutter late in the game is flat-out uproarious. The blink-and-you’ll-miss-them cameos are too delicious to spoil.
Here’s the part where I take Deadpool to task for remaining a crass juvenile delinquent. He still swears like profanity was just invented. He makes vaguely off-color remarks for shock value. Once again, we’re treated to a sophomoric array of groin and ass mentions.
Meanwhile, the movie’s ultra-smarmy self-references need a swift kick in the you-know-what. Deadpool makes roughly 93 glib comments to the camera, such as a request to speed up the plot to avoid an Act III. (Empty threat.) We already go in to a comic-book screening fully aware that we’re watching a fictional form of entertainment with no consequences on our real lives. All the deconstructive wink-winks, nudge-nudges felt the equivalent of a “kick me” sign.
Deadpool might not want to hear this, but his original movie was a pure game changer in the superhero genre. Not in the same sense of Wonder Woman or Black Panther, of course. It just Marvel-ously smashed through tropes and conventions in ways that similar movies only tip-toed. The kitschy humor in last year’s Thor: Ragnarok was no coincidence.
No more. Deadpool 2 will merely keep company amid all the other underwhelming sequels with bigger budgets and half the entertainment value. The end.
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Deadpool 2 opens in theaters Friday, May 18.
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