Like its predecessor, Deadpool 2 is a film people seek out so they can check out. Ya know, turn off. Escape. Hilariously enough, unabashed violence and profanity seem to be effective means for people to do just that. That, and being a carefree asshole is almost objectively hysterical. Deadpool spoke to people needing an anti-hero who doesn’t give a fuck. It’s funny to not give a fuck, and director Tim Miller knew it. Fans loved that Ryan Reynolds subverted the genre with irreverence. His politically-incorrect quips are perceived as breaths of fresh air in a society where you can’t say anything without being crucified, which seems to be important to people with lots of awful (but occasionally hilarious) things to say.
Unfortunately, its sequel doesn’t boast the advantages of its predecessor. Deadpool 2 plays out like collected skits performed against a shoddy backdrop masquerading as a plot. Characters, story, setting, and emotion all fall in line behind the film’s stilted humor. Between jokes, jabs, and jests that occupy most of its runtime, the film keeps itself busy and happy. What happens when the “story” part of the production comes in, though? Bludgeoning viewers with dick jokes and alluding to Deadpool’s attraction to Colossus doesn’t make anyone clever, especially in the way they’re presented here. It makes them cheap. Don’t misunderstand: Nobody is above laughing at that shit. It’s low-hanging fruit, but it’s fruit that made the lady two rows down shit herself from laughing so goddamn hard. Didn’t think vicarious amusement could be experienced as an olfactory sensation, but here we are.
Anyway, a comedian strings together dick and gay jokes that serve a greater purpose (most of the time). Reynolds strings together dick and gay jokes that serve more dick and gay jokes, none of which are innovative even within the parameters they’ve set for themselves. It’s not that these jokes aren’t enjoyable; it’s that these jokes aren’t enjoyable when they’re repeatedly shoved down our throats by spandex-clad clowns screaming for our laughter. The film tries too hard too often, and it shows. Luckily, Reynolds’s delivery saves it from being too irritating, even if it’s only barely.
As for the film’s plot, imagine every time-travel story ever written and you’ve got Deadpool 2. A warrior from the future travels to the present to right wrongs that are decades from happening. The warrior meets (and aligns himself with) heroes from the present so that he can accomplish his mission. Asses are kicked and the day is saved. By itself, this plot isn’t a problem. You can’t rag on a plot for being derivative when every story borrows from what came before. When you compound a derivative plot with everything else that’s wrong with the film, that’s when it’s an issue.
Perhaps the most thrilling aspect of Deadpool 2 is Josh Brolin’s glowering Cable. As a muscle-bound soldier from the future who’s hell-bent on killing a teenager, he’s alarmingly believable. Judging from his performance, you’d think he’s at least thought about it once or twice. Interestingly, there’s an incredible similarity between Cable and Thanos, both of whom are portrayed by Brolin and both of whom are driven by a singular goal. The difference? Bio-Brolin doesn’t know the name of his dead kid’s teddy bear (which is never mentioned because he doesn’t fucking know it) and Brooding Brolin can’t teach cliff-diving to save her life. Great pricks parent alike.
As a pointed aside, using T.J. Miller’s presence as a metric when determining whether or not a film has merit has never been the best idea. However, it’s difficult not to when the film fails to distract from the fact that the fucker still gets work. What’s more, his character, Weasel, remains the most fascinating aspect of the movie. Forget the fake bomb threats. That’s the big crime here.
Deadpool 2 isn’t superior to its predecessor, but why does that matter when both are mediocre? David Leitch’s indecent, irreverent sequel loses much of its charm in its first act, but many won’t notice a drop in quality because the film seems good all the way through. It’s only upon close inspection that the film’s emptiness becomes clear. This isn’t malicious or manipulative on Leitch’s part at all. It’s the nature of the material, a nature that the director absolutely understands and excels at showcasing. However, when the nature of a thing is flawed, wouldn’t showcasing it well not be so great of a thing?