In 2016, I begrudgingly acknowledged that “Deadpool” served up exactly what its fans wanted, even if it didn’t totally connect with me. I got much more into “Deadpool 2” – now available for home viewing – because it has great new characters and fun action sequences (including one that hits the sweet spot of being darkly, brilliantly funny). But quite possibly I have also adjusted to the rhythms of this type of comedy. (Note: This is a review of the theatrical cut, not the Super Duper Cut.)
It’s not that the jokes are all that clever. As in the first film, Ryan Reynolds’ Wade Wilson/Deadpool says “Patrick Stewart” rather than “Professor Xavier.” And in a big fight against Cable (Josh Brolin), Deadpool notes that Cable’s dark sensibility is such that he could be mistaken for a DC character. Deadpool later calls Cable “Thanos” – Brolin is the first actor to have major roles in both the “X-Men” Universe and the MCU.
These are barely jokes; they just serve to illustrate that the writers – Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick and Reynolds – have a basic awareness of popular movie franchises. But they do serve the purpose of forging an alliance with the audience, and even if they aren’t funny, there is a quickness to these quips that keeps them neutral rather than irritatingly unfunny.
There’s clearly more of a budget in director David Leitch’s sequel, and it has been spent on new characters and one bravura action sequence in the film’s middle that comes on the tail end of its best joke premise.
Brolin’s Cable looks like he stepped right out of the comic; he’s the functional antagonist, but not truly villainous. This time-traveler aims to kill Firefist (Julian Dennison), a New Zealander mutant who will kill tons of people in the future. For now, the kid is going through a very understandable teenage rebellion, as the wards at his mutant reform school regularly abuse the students.
The biggest scene-stealer, though, is Domino (“Atlanta’s” Zazie Beetz). Deadpool doubts that her superpower of being lucky will play cinematically, but it definitely does. She lands from a parachute jump, and a car barely misses her. She drives a tanker truck full of the state’s mutant prisoners as Cable and Deadpool scuffle in the back, and somehow avoids every possible bad outcome from flying bullets. It’s genuinely thrilling.
That sequence comes after “Deadpool 2’s” best comedic conceit plays out: Deadpool forms X-Force via old-fashioned in-person interviews. The superpowers are humorous, including the invisible Vanisher and the acid-vomiting Zeitgeist (Bill Skarsgard). Best of all is Peter (Rob Delaney), who is just a normal guy responding to the job listing. “You’re in,” Deadpool says (of course).
The next sequence deliciously completes the joke rather than dragging it out through the whole movie, as most of X-Force’s parachute jumps don’t turn out well. Yes, it’s dark, but it’s absurd enough that it worked for me.
As with the first entry, Colossus (CGI, plus Stefan Kapicic’s voice) and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand) are Deadpool’s best X-Men friends. Their annoyance with Deadpool, along with the fact that they stay by his side, makes them effective surrogates for the audience, many members of whom are no doubt a bit exasperated by Deadpool’s antics. Deadpool does show more of his soft side here, though – for example when he sweetly says “Hi Yukio!” every time he runs across Negasonic’s pink-haired girlfriend, played by Shioli Kutsuna.
Along with Juggernaut (CGI, plus Reynolds’ voice), Yukio is one of those mutants from the original timeline who is repurposed for this new timeline that started with “Days of Future Past” (2014). On Timeline 1, Juggernaut was in “X-Men: The Last Stand” (2006), and Yukio was in “The Wolverine” (2013) as an adult. Speaking of timeline resets, look for the writers to engage in a particularly cathartic example amid the closing credits.
Granted, some gags get close to exhausting, such as when everyone is wigged out by Deadpool’s lower body as he is in the process of regenerating it. And I was afraid that one death scene would go on forever.
But “Deadpool 2” generally has a good sense of pace, and by the end of this two-hour romp, I found I genuinely had a good time.