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‘Deadpool 2’: A tad tame but still a ton of fun

by James Hadfield

Contributing Writer

Blame it on the Bat. For a brief period, Deadpool seemed like the most subversive player on the cinematic superhero circuit, deflating the genre’s pretensions with a barrage of self-referential humor and fourth wall-breaking asides. But after last year’s “The Lego Batman Movie,” he’s starting to look rather tame: a potty-mouthed prankster who ultimately plays it safe, respecting comic-book conventions rather than trying to blow them into a heap of interlocking plastic pieces.

That’s not to say he isn’t a heck of a lot of fun. “Deadpool 2” is the perfect antidote to the Wagnerian pomp of “Avengers: Infinity War.” In a serendipitous bit of casting, it even features the same actor as its antagonist. Fresh from playing Thanos, the thinking man’s megalomaniac, Josh Brolin dons the guise of Cable, a time-traveling super-soldier with various bionic enhancements that make him look like a prototype Terminator — or, as Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) puts it, a “grumpy old f——- with a ‘Winter Soldier’ arm.”

Deadpool 2
Rating
Run Time 120 mins.
Language English

He arrives from the future intending to kill a portly teenager with pyrokinetic powers, Firefist (Julian Dennison), before he grows up to become far more dangerous. Having just rescued the boy from a creepy mutant “reform school” while working with the regular X-Men, Deadpool decides to protect him, even if it means getting riddled with bullets and ripped in half (hey, that’s what accelerated healing powers are for).

Though it had double the budget of the first movie, this sequel still seems a lot smaller than some of the recent offerings from the parallel Marvel Cinematic Universe, to say nothing of “X-Men: Apocalypse.” Most of the money appears to have been spent on an explosive car chase through the streets of Vancouver, but the majority of the action happens within closer confines, giving it a vibe that’s more akin to a 1990s blockbuster.

There’s also something very ’90s about the script’s endless pop-culture references, harking back to “Wayne’s World” and vintage Quentin Tarantino. A lot of the jokes are the kind of stuff where you reflexively laugh because you get it, rather than because it’s actually funny. But the film’s humor is in line with the poop emoji featured in its poster — keep throwing enough of the stuff against a wall and some of it will stick.

There’s a prodigious amount of wisecracking here, so much so that a few of the quips from the trailer don’t even make it into the final cut. Some of the best punchlines aren’t even verbal: “Deadpool 2” enlists one of the few A-list actors who hadn’t yet jumped on the superhero gravy train for a throwaway sight gag.

After an undistinguished middle section, the movie takes off when Deadpool attempts to convene his own mutant superhero team, X-Force. The most notable member is Domino (Zazie Beetz), an Afro-sporting ass-kicker with blaxploitation dress sense, whose superpower is her extraordinary luck. While the Avengers might charge into battle, Domino saunters, barely flinching as vehicles careen over her head and goons accidentally kill one another while trying to attack her.

The joke, of course, is that all the characters in these franchise films are outrageously fluky — she’s just the first to admit it. By flipping the rules of engagement, she isn’t just the best thing about “Deadpool 2”; she could also give Lego Batman a run for his plastic money.