Tongue in Cock
Warning: This review contains what ironic movie characters knowingly refer to as “spoilers”, while breaking the forth wall.
Two years after Ryan Reynolds revived the idea that a mainstream genre film could be violent and mirthful; something we all used to take for granted before Hollywood sanitised their product by conflating teen-friendly ratings with mass appeal (a policy that ultimately became a self-fulfilling prophesy), here’s an old fashioned sequel that piles on more and delivers less.
The original Deadpool, for all its genre-busting pretensions, was a self-aware origin story with a likable (and liberated) Reynolds walking the tightrope between unbearable, smug postmodern idiocy – the kind of humour that flatters an audience’s knowledge of movie conventions and franchise content, and assured deadpanning. It may not have been much of a film – not quite a spoof, not quite a full-bodied superhero flick, but it had a spine; that aforementioned origin structure – a familiar shape that let audiences switch off and enjoy the pop cultural masturbation.
Deadpool 2 has no shortage of ideas but it doesn’t quite cohere, perhaps because for all its authorial flagging (Reynolds tells his newly assembled X-Force of Z-Grade mutants that if they succeed in capturing Josh Brolin’s Cable they can forget the third act and go home), it’s unfocused, a daisy chain of sketches masquerading as a story.
Had John Wick co-director David Leitch (whose stewardship of the action is disappointing, ravaged by frenzied editing), been minded to promote one of the movie’s B-plots to A status, the movie might felt less superficial. Instead, it’s not just about Wade’s redemption following the death of his girlfriend, or Cable’s Terminator-like time traveling child killer mission, or Deadpool trying to form a mutant clique more attuned to ramshackle, bullshit approach to heroism, having been rejected by the PG-13 friendly X-Men – but all three. It’s as if writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick worried they wouldn’t be able to generate enough gags from a single plot, so threw as much shit at the wall as possible.
Said jokes are, sadly, rarely witty. Instead, like the first film, it’s a comic brew flavoured with violence, scatology, sex, racial stereotyping and movie references. All of which works fine, in a wholly inconsequential and forgotten by the time the credits end, kind of way, but self-aware comedy used to be smarter than this. Have Team Deadpool seen Blazing Saddles? Ah, but Mel Brooks was writing for adults and the shock news is that this makes a huge difference. Spoiler: it also futureproofs your movie.
As a couple of enjoyable mid-credits gags suggest, Deadpool‘s still the best fit for Reynolds’ brand of breezy verbosity yet discovered. But if he wants to avoid the fate of Mike Myers (three films and out, having found his own iconic comedy character, Austin Powers), he’ll need to ensure future instalments take both the movie and mirth parts of the equation more seriously.