- Directed by David Leitch
- Written by Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick and Ryan Reynolds
- Starring Ryan Reynolds, Josh Brolin and Zazie Beetz
- Classification 18A
- 113 minutes
- Opening May 18
While I am no longer 10 years old, being a film critic means I get to indulge my inner child more often than others. It is almost a prerequisite for the job, given how fervently the film industry – mostly since its inception, but especially over the past quarter-century – bows down at the altar of the tweenage boy.
Never before have the demands of my inner man-child been so stirred, though, than while experiencing Deadpool 2, a movie that feels scribbled in pencil crayon, drenched in Jolt cola and coated with the dust of a thousand discarded bags of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos.
The sequel to 2016′s surprise hit – which proved that the global box office could not only stomach a comic-book character who swears and slays, but was desperate for such a bad widdle boy – is the closest Hollywood’s superhero industrial complex has come to appealing directly to the mind of a Grade 5 classroom. The violence is extreme and non-stop. The editing is perfect for those whose attention spans are taxed by a tweet. The jokes hit upon every elementary school kid’s favourite subjects: comic books, movies about comic books, sex (but only some vague notion of sex – as if viewing a porn video through a scrambled pay-per-view feed or, for today’s generation, via a slow-to-buffer WiFi connection). If there is one moment in the film that even brushes against maturity, I missed it. Probably because I was too busy wondering how long I could prevent my own (now 3½-year-old) son from getting his hands on this.
That is a depressing calculation, though, and Deadpool 2 has no time and certainly no patience for such mental exercises. Its plot combines several narrative threads from its comic-book source material and blends them together until they’re stupidly simple to swallow. Our title character (a.k.a. Wade Wilson, played by the walking smirk that is Ryan Reynolds) is busy doing his merc-with-a-mouth shtick, killing bad guys for cash while regenerating any limbs or viscera that might be lost in the process thanks to a truly gross superpower. He’s still got a loving girlfriend (Morena Baccarin), a few dopey sidekicks (including T.J. Miller, wisely downplayed this time around) and a penchant for busting through the fourth wall with a Kool-Aid Man-like ferocity. So far, so tolerable.
But then a time-travelling grump from the future named Cable (Josh Brolin, looking genuinely upset to be here) crosses Deadpool’s path, on the hunt for a kid (Julian Dennison) who has the potential to grow up into the Earth’s worst nightmare, and then Deadpool 2 succumbs to the same comic-book tropes that it so frequently mocked the first time out.
Back in director Tim Miller’s first film, the stakes were low and refreshingly simple – it was enough just to watch Reynolds do his wink-wink-nudge-nudge thing and chop some up some bad guys while talking smack about Hugh Jackman. At least it felt an inch or two out of step with the overwhelming sameness of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and more entertaining than Warner’s grim DC efforts.
With Miller out, replaced by David Leitch (Atomic Blonde, John Wick), Reynolds drafted onto the original screenwriting team of Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick and box-office expectations sky-high from studio 20th Century Fox, the enterprise doubles down to the point of gluttony. More guts, more cameos, more gags that aim for subversiveness but are so repetitive that they loop back around to being obligatory and self-defeating. (One joke about the popularity of dubstep on movie soundtracks is fine; two is a criminal act. Ditto the film’s only truly funny scene – a straight rip-off of MacGruber.)
The material is all delivered with such brazen confidence and mania that it is almost impressive. The fact that the film can mock the conventions of its sister X-Men movies in one breath and exploit the worst narrative crutches of comics in another (look up “Women in Refrigerators” afterward, if you want to have a really bad day) indicates the film is inherently conflicted with itself. There is an interesting superhero movie lurking in here, somewhere. If the original film had only earned, say, half of its US$783-million, maybe we would’ve gotten to see it, too. As it is, Deadpool 2 is a film that is merely aggressively aggressive.
There are bright spots. Mostly these happen whenever Zazie Beetz is on-screen, playing the charming mutant Domino, whose superpower is being incredibly lucky. Or when New Zealand export Dennison is allowed to open his mouth instead of spraying CGI fire all over the screen – though his deadpan strengths are better employed in 2016′s Hunt for the Wilderpeople (directed by Taika Waititi, who in last year’s genuinely funny Thor: Ragnarok deftly accomplished what Reynolds and company only ache to do with the genre here).
And, of course, the kids will love it. Sure, the film is rated R in the United States, and 18A in Ontario, ensuring no 10-year-old should touch it. But kids can be clever – or, at least more clever than Deadpool 2.