Part of the trailer for Deadpool 2 has Ryan Reynolds acting out a scene with kids’ action figures, doing all the character voices himself. Honestly, if all of Deadpool 2 had been filmed that way, I would’ve watched it. That’s how much I liked the original film and its star. Sadly, this newest comic-book adventure is quite a bit of a comedown, even though I did laugh hard at some parts.
The movie begins with a bunch of Slavic thugs breaking into Deadpool’s home and killing Vanessa (Morena Baccarin), which both motivates him for the rest of the story and gives him a license to act a lot gayer in this movie, which comic fans will recognize as consistent with the character. During an abortive stint with the X-Men, our wisecracking Canadian determines to protect an angry 16-year-old mutant named Russell (Julian Dennison), first from a sadistic, pedophilic religious-nut schoolmaster (Eddie Marsan) and then from Cable (Josh Brolin), a time traveler from the future intent on saving his family from being killed by a screwed-up adult Russell.
Unfortunately, this sequel goes overboard on the self-aware asides and pop-culture references. Deadpool was funny and charming when he joked about uncool things like TCBY and Wham!, but here he comes off like a dad trying to look hip when he addresses Cable as “Thanos” and says, “You’re so dark! Did you come from the DC universe?” Reynolds fell out with Deadpool director Tim Miller over creative differences, and new director David Leitch (or, as the James Bond-parodying opening credits identify him, “one of the guys who killed the dog in John Wick”) isn’t as good at balancing the comedy and the action sequences. While he does a fair enough job with the latter, he doesn’t create anything as memorable as his stairway fight in Atomic Blonde. What made Deadpool such a compelling character in his first outing was how scared and vulnerable he was underneath the jokes. Here, his attempts to steer Russell on to the right path don’t pull the same weight.
Still, we do get Deadpool assembling a team of mutant heroes only to watch most of them die by incompetence before the fighting even starts. Among the new characters, Zazie Beetz creates an impression as a girl whose superpower is being incredibly lucky, striding serenely through a battlefield while a string of accidents takes out all of the heavily armed bad guys trying to kill her. The movie’s almost worth the admission price just for the sequence in the middle of the closing credits, when Deadpool ends up with Cable’s time-travel gadget and uses it to undo most of the movie’s damage, ding the Avengers, and crap all over Green Lantern in the most emphatic way. It’s in such ways that Deadpool 2 retains enough good will to get by.
Starring Ryan Reynolds and Josh Brolin. Directed by David Leitch. Written by Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick, and Ryan Reynolds, based on Bob Liefeld and Fabian Nicieza’s comic series. Rated R.