Deadpool 2 ★★½

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

Nothing *truly* unexpected occurs in 'Deadpool 2'. It is, after all, a superhero movie *and* a sequel, albeit a giddily self-aware and irreverent one. As with its 2016 surprise-hit predecessor, the second installment of the 'Merc with the Mouth's (a.k.a. Wade Wilson) ultra-violent, fourth-wall-busting adventures through the 20th Century Fox X-verse is oddly beholden to the subgenre's formulae.

What's a bit perturbing about this budding franchise' latest entry – helmed by newly-anointed action film saint David Leitch ('Atomic Blonde') rather than 'Deadpool 1' director Tim Miller – is how it manages to be simultaneously more outrageous and more earnest than the first chapter.

On the one hand, it’s plain that the success of the original ‘Deadpool’ allowed writers Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick, and Ryan Reynolds -- who, of course, also stars as the titular wisecracking antihero -- to play much looser with the new film’s humor. It feels sillier, nastier, and generally more expansive in its relentless piss-taking. It resembles a Trey Parker and Matt Stone joint, in that its scorn for everything, its R-rated funny-pages imagination, and its unabashed adoration for spectacle remind one of ‘South Park’. (Although ‘Deadpool 2’ is gently progressive in ways that said show is not; the intimations of Deadpool’s bisexuality, while still chaste and tepid, are at the forefront this outing, with absolutely no judgment implied.)

To cite one vivid example of the contrast between the original film’s humor and the sequel’s – SPOILER ALERT – ‘Deadpool’ included a passing wisecrack about Reynolds’ awful CGI costume in ‘Green Lantern’ (2011). The new film, meanwhile, offers up a scene of Deadpool going back in time to literally shoot Reynolds in the head just before he starts reading the script to that notorious DC Comics-based flop (The actor smugly congratulates himself, “Welcome to the big time!” just before his alter ego blows his brains out all over the ill-fated screenplay’s title page.)

On the other hand, ‘Deadpool 2’ is oddly sappy and melancholy for a film that is otherwise constantly reassuring the audience that, see, we don’t take this shit seriously. Far too much time is devoted to Wade and girlfriend Vanessa’s (Morena Baccarin) passionate, agreeably prickly romance. Reynolds and Baccarin are, of course, gorgeous -- well, Reynolds is when he's not hidden under burn victim prosthetics -- and they're fun to watch as they fling alternately sappy, sarcastic, and horny quips at each other. There’s no intrinsic reason a love story can’t be a part of a satirical film's formula. However, 'Deadpool 2' is so aggressively *sincere* about that love story that it begins to badly clash with everything else in the film. The new film is also packed with Daddy Issues and dead family backstories and other assorted heart-tugging tropes that don’t fit the feature’s irreverent attitude *at all*.

Reynolds, as before, gives 110% to a film that doesn’t really deserve such commitment, and his charisma – and taste for self-denigrating humor – is one of the feature's saving graces. A winning Zazie Beetz as the strutting mercenary mutant Domino (super power: incredible luck) is another. Ditto a stupendous comedic set-piece where Deadpool’s newly assembled “X-Force” is systematically and gruesomely wiped out in the space of two minutes by a series of ridiculous, Itchy & Scratchy-style mishaps. As for everything else, well, it’s a ‘Deadpool’ movie: If you liked the first one, you’ll probably like this one, and that built-in repeat business is probably all that Fox ultimately expects of Reynolds and Co.