How do you tell the same joke again? It was funny the first time, got laughs out of everybody and was completely different from the jokes everyone else tells at the party. It feels good and you want to keep that feeling going, so the obvious answer would be to tell everyone that joke you know. But how? Do you make it longer? Weirder? How do you take something that was supposed to be a throwaway goof and repeat it to the same (or better) effect? What a tough question, especially for handsome do-gooder Ryan Reynolds to answer. He certainly had a great love and passion for Deadpool, the merc with a mouth that’s been throwing a bomb-laced pie in the face of comic book lore for nearly 30 years, but Reynolds probably didn’t expect his passion project to become a nearly-$800 million smash hit that turned the superhero-movie phenomenon on its head (mostly by being slightly different from the superhero movie formula, but still). So since Deadpool was a hit and Fox likes money (and another superhero franchise since Wolverine is dead and the rest of them are circling the drain), Reynolds had to back a sequel. He had to tell the same joke for a bigger crowd than last time who heard how good the joke was and wanted more. Heavy lies the crown of the Canadian snark king.
Deadpool 2, 11 minutes longer and over-$50 million more expensive than the last one, brings us back to the adventures of Wade Wilson (Reynolds) the deformed, deranged, self-healing assassin specializing in monologues and swordplay. He tries sucking up to the X-Men, or just Colossus (Stefan Kapicic) and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand), by trying to help an angry young mutant named Russell (Julian Dennison). Unfortunately Russell is being hunted by Cable (Josh Brolin), a mercenary from the future with a robotic arm, a huge gun and very little patience. But Deadpool, who often leaps before he looks, decides to form a crew and take Cable head-on.
In typical sequel fashion, Deadpool 2 is a bigger and louder production than its predecessor. There are more characters, more set pieces, more action scenes, more jokes, more schtick. Fortunately, Deadpool 2 seems very self-aware of the pitfalls of being a sequel and avoids being overstuffed. Despite the plot not really kicking in until the 30-minute mark, the movie has good pacing and has enough snark to mock foreshadowing and plot resolutions before the audience does. Big credit goes to newly-crowned action movie heavyweight David Leitch (John Wick, Atomic Blonde), who shoots the bigger and more meticulously-staged action scenes with smoothe composition and even some nice bits of slow-motion. Even the comedy gags are well-directed and edited, making the 119-minute runtime mostly zoom by. Writers Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick and Reynolds himself pack the script with barrels of one-liners, fourth-wall breaks, in-jokes and sarcasm. Amazingly almost all of them land, though the best jokes in the movie are the sight gags with physical comedy that use the movie’s hard-R rating to the fullest.
While Deadpool 2 is an improvement from its predecessor in the technical department, it can’t quite stick the landing of being a great movie entirely. Mostly because the movie starts running on fumes after its action centerpiece where Deadpool tries to rescue to Russell from a convoy. While it has a strong start in how it uses the X-Force, specifically a sly Zazie Beetz as Domino, it feels like the movie ran out of money near its end with some distractingly cheap-looking CGI and a 10-minute lull where the movie just stops. Much like the first movie, there’s a desire for Deadpool 2 to keep upping the ante and go balls to the wall with its action and violence in keeping with the spirit of the comic. It’s nice that Leitch would want to slow down and build the movie back up to its climax, but that’s when the movie becomes typical again and loses the manic spirit that makes Deadpool so fun to watch. The spirit of Deadpool 2 seems to be “whatever,” but more of a feeling of throwing everything at the wall to see what sticks and less gleeful anarchy. Maybe it’s because of the budget or studio mandate or Reynolds himself, but Deadpool on the big screen always seems grounded by desperately wanting laughs more than it wants blood. And that’s fine because the movie is pretty funny, but it feels like there’s another half to the movie’s promise it keeps forgetting to make good on.
But the movie is committed to its comedy base and to its credit, its got some funny people backing the lines. Reynolds has always seemed like a born movie star with his charming good looks backed up by his ace timing and investment in scenes. Once again hidden in a red suit and slathered in makeup, Reynolds breaks through it all with sheer charisma and attitude that never loses steam. Even if his movie can’t be great, Reynolds bounces and zips through every scene like Bugs Bunny with swords and not a single sign of exhaustion in his voice. His supporting cast is along for the ride too, with Hildebrand’s droll shtick always useful, Kapicic’s thick-headed optimism makes a great foil for Deadpool and Dennison (who proved his comedic chops last year in Hunt for the Wilderpeople) has no problem being a tough brat and takes getting punched in the face multiple times like a champ. Beetz also gets a star-making performance here, going toe-to-toe with Reynolds’s sarcasm and having a strong screen presence on her own. Surprisingly the weakest link in the movie is Brolin, only three weeks removed from playing one of the best villains in superhero movie history (and that didn’t even require using his real face!). Brolin is still intimidating as hell with his giant gun and cold glare, but it feels like he was just written in as a roadblock for Deadpool to throw punches at and doesn’t get much development. His Cable is essentially if John Conor had the same abilities as The Terminator, which is funny considered the future that the movie shows he traveled from looks exactly like the one ruled by the machines in the Terminator franchise.
Do I still wish Deadpool was just a one-off goof that inspired more outlandish comic-book movies instead of just becoming a new franchise? Of course, but that doesn’t sully the fact that Deadpool 2 is a lot of fun. It moves fast, it gets laughs and still has enough wit to be considered “different” from the typical superhero movie fair. It’s questionable as to how much longer Reynolds and his team can keep this joke funny, especially in the age where superhero fatigue is looming more and more. For now, let’s all just take comfort in the fact that Deadpool is still funny, Ryan Reynolds acting career is doing fine and David Leitch is still making action movies cool again. It’s the little details that keep the joke funny.