MAY 30, 2018
You all remember that guy.
He was the joker in the last row of class who, on the first day of school, would be the one who began to razz the teacher with a steady stream of one-liners. The first four or five jokes would break the ice, and some of the jokes might actually have been funny. But by the 20th joke in the course of an hour, you’d be thinking, “Shut up already.”
That guy is Deadpool.
As in the first “Deadpool,” a surprise 2016 hit, “Deadpool 2” is still smug and thinks it’s the funniest guy in class. I was looking forward to the first film, hoping that it would be a refreshing antidote to the seriousness of many pretentious comic book movies. But instead I found the film to take a tone of superiority, as if it was somehow above the mere superhero movies that it was satirizing. (You can read my C- review of the 2016 “Deadpool” here)
Based on the first film, I wasn’t expecting much from “Deadpool 2,” and I wasn’t disappointed. The sequel begins with superhero Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) smoking a cigarette as a kind of an in-joke — as a 20th Century Fox film, “Deadpool 2” is one of the few Marvel movies not released by Disney, which has banned smoking from all of its films.
The plot finally kicks in when Deadpool (AKA Wade Wilson) suffers a personal tragedy and tries (and fails) to commit suicide. When suicide doesn’t work, he seeks to become one of the X-Men, and Wade is soon put to the test when he confronts young Russell (the wonderful Julian Dennison of “Hunt For the Wilderpeople”), also known as Firefist, who wants to burn down his orphanage because he has been abused by its headmaster (Eddie Marsan).
In the confusion, both Deadpool and Russell are taken into custody and strapped with restraint collars that sap their powers, and that’s when the film begins to bog down until the appearance of the vengeful Cable (Josh Brolin).
As in “Avengers: Infinity War” in which he played the villain Thanos, Brolin is again the bad guy and once more, he is the best thing in the film since, though starting out as the antagonist, his character deepens and becomes a welcome respite from the incessant joke machine that is the title character.
The never-ending jokes here become increasingly desperate as the film wears on, though I would be less than honest if I didn’t admit that I laughed at a few of them. (I won’t spoil them, but they stand out amidst the ones that tank.) But that’s the risk you run when your plot depends on jokes rather than character.
Reynolds once again is a likable presence and is the butt of some self-deprecating humor, which is usually welcome, and Zazie Beetz (FX’s “Atlanta”) is terrific as a self-proclaimed superhero whose super-power is said to be luck. Deadpool scoffs at it, but he couldn’t be more wrong.
Directed by David Leitch (who is listed in the film’s credits as “one of the guys who killed the dog in ‘John Wick'”), the film’s action sequences are often clunky, a surprise given the fact that Leitch also directed last year’s “Atomic Blonde,” which contained a fight on a stairwell that was arguably the most expert action sequence in recent memory.
But it’s ultimately the wink-wink cuteness of the film’s screenplay that does in “Deadpool 2.” The story is not without possibilities — the parallel tragedies in the lives of both Deadpool and Cable could have been mined for some emotional audience engagement, but it’s brought up and then dropped, just in time for another one-liner.
Since the film’s box-office success will likely ensure that there will be a “Deadpool 3,” I beg Reynolds and his collaborators to sit down and watch “Guardians of the Galaxy” to learn how to incorporate humor into the Marvel world. It’s not all about one-liners — it is instead about comedy that grows from character, an approach that “Deadpool 2” could have desperately used.