Love it or hate it, it’s not hard to understand the appeal of Deadpool. In an era oversaturated with overstuffed, overfunded superhero self-seriousness, the irreverent nose-thumbing of Marvel’s “Merc With a Mouth” stands out as a sorely needed counterpoint amid an industry built on excess. While Deadpool 2 may lack the element of surprise that allowed its predecessor to slip under the radar when it seduced audiences and critics alike two years ago, it benefits from the establishment of audience expectations by subverting them. If you like penis jokes, pop culture references and gratuitous violence, then Deadpool 2 is the movie for you — and based on its box office numbers, those traits can apparently be ascribed to a vast swath of moviegoers.
Yes, Deadpool 2 is everything you loved — or hated, as the case may be — about the original, turned up to 11, but it never misses a chance to poke some self-aware fun at that fact. Ryan Reynolds, every inch as excellent as last time, reprises his franchise-building turn as the filth-spewing font of one-liners Wade Wilson, aka Deadpool, but here he’s suicidal over a first-act death that sets the plot in motion. As inciting incidents go, it’s pretty standard fare, but the film isn’t shy about pointing this out. The acerbic script, courtesy of Reynolds and co-screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, consistently lampoons the predictability of its narrative without forgetting to tell a story in the process, and the result is surprisingly effective from a story and character standpoint.
The plot itself is best left unspoiled, but it involves Deadpool’s X-Men “buddies,” Colossus (Stefan Kapicic) and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand) trying to drag him out of the doldrums by taking him on a mission as an X-Man “in training,” as the script repeatedly points out. This draws him into conflict with the time-traveling Cable (Josh Brolin) over the fate of a young mutant who’s given himself the mockable monicker Firefist (Julian Dennison). Both Dennison and Brolin are exceptional, as is Zazie Beetz as Domino, a member of Deadpool’s “X Force,” a name chosen for its gender neutrality and aptly mocked as derivative.
And that last point sums up Deadpool 2 in a nutshell. This is the first superhero movie I can think of with openly gay characters, and yet it makes a joke of that very fact. It’s a film that makes concerted efforts to be racially inclusive but cracks wise about Black Panther and white supremacists. It’s a movie that devotes a portion of its third-act climax to the undeniable similarity between “Papa, Can You Hear Me” from Yentl and “Do You Want to Build a Snowman” from Frozen and makes it an actual story beat. Director David Leitch, stepping in to replace Tim Miller, keeps the action set pieces coming, but that’s not the point — this is a ludicrous movie that, at its core, is about the very ridiculousness of its own necessity. It’s like an ouroboros of absurdity, from its James-Bond-ripoff title sequence to Reynolds’ victory lap of a midcredits stinger, infinitely feeding on its own inanity. Lucky for us, there’s no Graham Chapman proxy to step in and shut the whole thing down for being too silly. Rated R for language, sexuality and violence.
Now Playing at AMC Classic River Hills 10, Carolina Cinemark, Regal Biltmore Grande, Epic of Hendersonville.