Maximum Effort, by Bob Connally

22 May

Two years ago much was made about the surprisingly massive success of Deadpool. Many attributed it to the film being a highly irreverent and decidedly R-rated superhero comedy that subverted expectations. This somewhat reductive view made me concerned that we would begin to be inundated with knockoffs made by people who didn’t really understand just what it was that made Deadpool work. I could practically hear studio heads saying, “A superhero who swears a lot and makes pop culture references?! That’s gold, baby! We gotta get us one of those!”

On top of that, Deadpool wasn’t even the first highly irreverent, decidedly R-rated superhero comedy that subverted expectations. It wasn’t even the first this decade. Both Kick-Ass and Super (which was directed by a pre-Guardians of the Galaxy James Gunn) had gone that route relatively recently. What made Deadpool special and such a wildly funny and entertaining movie was the passion and personality that star Ryan Reynolds brought to it.

After being introduced as the character rather unceremoniously in 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine, it seemed only Reynolds himself wanted to do right by the “Merc with a Mouth.” To make matters worse, Reynolds starred in the by all accounts disastrous Green Lantern in 2011, making the idea of him playing another superhero sound like box-office poison. (Full disclosure, I have not seen either Wolverine or Green Lantern and after all this time I don’t hate myself enough to change that.) However, Reynolds and a few close associates moved mountains and almost certainly leaked test footage online that caused a groundswell of support to get Deadpool made. Reynolds was rewarded for his persistence and 20th Century Fox was rewarded with a gigantic box-office hit that convinced them that 2017’s Logan could be R-rated as well.

Coming off the popularity of the first film, there was incredible anticipation for the sequel. Along with that though came a level of pressure to deliver that wasn’t there for Reynolds or the filmmakers the first time around. Happily, Deadpool 2 is a worthy successor. While a little bit more of the comedy lands in the first movie- though the vast majority of it lands in this one as well- Deadpool 2 is stronger in other areas. The emotional elements have more punch and Josh Brolin’s Cable is a significant step up as the villain.

Deadpool 2 isn’t the sort of movie that really demands a standard plot synopsis. Even Fox’s own marketing material describes it as the story of “Miami’s hottest bartender…searching to regain his spice for life, as well as a flux capacitor…finding a new taste for adventure and earning the coveted coffee mug title of World’s Best Lover.” Spoilers: None of that is in the movie. But I would absolutely watch that and you know you would too. It is however the story of Deadpool trying to protect a troubled 14-year old boy with mutant abilities (Hunt for the Wilderpeople’s Julian Dennison) from the time-hopping Cable, whose reasons for hunting the teenager through time are unclear.

With a screenplay by Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick (the writers of the first film) and Reynolds himself, Deadpool 2 is directed by “the guy who killed the dog in John Wick,” David Leitch. Not surprisingly, Leitch handles the action sequences deftly but he also blends them well with the comedy. The funniest sequence of the movie involves Deadpool’s newly recruited X-Force parachuting out of a plane. His team includes people with superpowers such as Bedlam (Terry Crews), Zeitgeist (Bill Skarsgard, It) and a character named Vanisher that involves some hilarious sight gags I don’t want to spoil. Also on the team are the extraordinarily lucky Domino (Atlanta’s Zazie Beetz) and a guy named Peter (Rob Delaney) who has no powers but “just saw the ad and thought it looked like fun.” Peter is a treasure.

Many of the highlights of the first Deadpool return such as Vanessa (Morena Baccarin), Blind Al (Leslie Uggams), Weasel (T.J. Miller), Dopinder (Karan Soni), and Colossus (voice of Stefan Kapicic). Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand) is back as well and this time she has a girlfriend named Yukio (Shioli Kutsuna) who has a great running gag going with Deadpool throughout the movie.

Once again though, it is Reynolds’ unchained charisma and passion that carry the movie. It’s not just that he’s clearly having the time of his life playing Deadpool, it’s that he wants to bring the audience along for the ride. It’s the sort of character and movie where that works perfectly and it’s why we so readily- even gleefully- accept the breaking of the fourth wall. For Reynolds, who spent so much of his career toiling through mostly terrible films, this isn’t just about a paycheck. He truly puts in “maximum effort.”

As you probably would expect there are scenes during the end credits. They’re amongst the funnier moments of the entire movie so be sure to stick around.

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