Directed by David Leitch from a screenplay by Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick and Ryan Reynolds, “Deadpool 2” wants to have it both ways; it wants to be unorthodox while still following all the same brand-building rules. What the movie doesn’t realize is that there’s no provocation in poking fun at corporate franchising when the picture is a victim itself. This delusion threatens to turn an entire runtime of 119 minutes into self-mockery.
There’s always been an interesting dichotomy at the heart of Deadpool, a Marvel Comics character who commonly breaks the fourth wall for humorous effects and running gags. An apparent contrast becomes clearer as it shapes a brand while trying to live up to its snarky self-awareness. The problem mostly lies in the fact that excessive meta humor and pop culture references don’t usually add up to an original work.
After utilizing one of the oldest inciting incidents in the book, Wade Wilson (Reynolds) embarks on another reluctant moral journey that tests his status as an antihero. This time around, he grapples with the fate of young mutant, Russell Collins (Julian Dennison). When the cybernetic soldier, Cable (Josh Brolin), arrives from the future warning of the boy’s murderous destiny, Deadpool enlists the help of Domino (Zazie Beetz) and distracts us with commentary until the story is resolved and we’re hungry for more.
Over the course of the movie, the encompassing “X-Men” franchise looms larger and our titular showman acknowledges it himself. He even admits to some lazy writing. However, he owns up to these and other shortcomings in a way that suggests it’s forgivable. In the end, “Deadpool 2” becomes less a critique of its genre than a symptom of it. It’s disappointing how shameless the whole endeavor is, no matter how intermittently entertaining the performers make it.
Those performers, spearheaded by a game Ryan Reynolds, all put in good work here. Reynolds has found the role of his career and most of his lines are delivered with a comic brilliance that reminds us why he deserved that Critic’s Choice Award and Golden Globe nomination for the original. Kiwi actor, Julian Dennison (“Hunt for the Wilderpeople”), gets his big commercial break as Firefist, a plus-sized orphan gangster whose powers are self-explanatory. Zazie Beetz (“Atlanta”) also fairs well in one of the film’s saving graces as a hero whose sole power is luck. As for Josh Brolin, he was more amusing in a motion-capture performance last month as Thanos of “Avengers: Infinity War.”
Leitch, director of “John Wick” and “Atomic Blonde,” is more than capable of impressive stunt choreography, but there’s only one sequence which takes place on a busy freeway that feels totally inspired. There’s a well-crafted joke here and there, and a few outrageous sight-gags, but they get drowned out by R-rated comedy that goes in one ear and out the other before anything registers to the brain. Everything else just feels visually and narratively bloated. Maybe I’m the only one with superhero fatigue. Maybe two wrongs actually do make a right.
Siena DeBolt | firstname.lastname@example.org