Review: Ryan Reynolds can't save lifeless 'Deadpool 2'

Ryan Reynolds

Ryan Reynolds Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox

Nathan Rabin once wrote of The Simpsons, “In its god-like prime [the show] did not need to sacrifice laughs for heart or vice versa.” That’s a pretty spot-on assessment of the classics, but it also points to a big problem with the newer episodes: While the occasional joke may land, contemporary Simpsons lacks substance.

And that was pretty much the case with Deadpool the first time around. After years of trying to get the picture off the ground, Ryan Reynolds finally made our dreams come true—and the result was a sporadically funny entry into the superhero movie canon. While novelty made the original stand out, Deadpool 2 doesn’t have that to fall back on.

This is where the so-called fanboys take to the comment section to assert that “Not every movie needs to be Citizen Kane!” and that this reviewer is a joyless dummy. And while I agree on both points, it’d be nice if every movie were at least somewhat good. It says a lot about Deadpool 2 that the mid-end credit scenes are the best part of the movie.

The sequel picks up with our antihero taking on international merc jobs, killing bad guys, and having fun doing it. To avoid spoilers, let’s just say some bad stuff goes down, and by roundabout means Deadpool finds himself protecting a young mutant named Russell, aka Firefist (Julian Dennison), from future-badass/murder machine Cable (Josh Brolin).

To the filmmakers’ collective credit, there is an attempt at gravity this go-around. Deadpool feels guilty about a particular death, and his arc with Russell at least aims for meatiness. That said, it never really works because the rest of the movie is such a chaotic mess.

As in the worst X-Men movies, there are too many characters who aren’t fully utilized, too many things happening that never culminate in any meaningful way. Motivations are farfetched enough to be jarring, and the humor isn’t strong enough for us to overlook story flaws.

There’s also this issue (present in the Deadpool comics over the past few years as well) where every character takes on Deadpool’s personality traits through weird osmosis or bad character writing. Be it Cable, Russell, or a certain mystery bad guy, everybody seems just a bit too similar and out of line with their usual identities.

This, along with some plot points, paints future Deadpool movies and potentially some of the X-Men movies into a bit of a corner. Cable and other characters in Deadpool 2 are pretty big components of the X-Men mythology, and here they’re reduced to caricatures.

As a longtime fan of the comic book character (I still have my original issue of 1997’s Deadpool #1), I really want to like this franchise. But it’s just so meh. Ryan Reynolds is the perfect person to play Deadpool and he’s been carrying these movies. Why can’t the powers that be figure out a decent script to complement him?

Chances are that if you absolutely loved the first Deadpool, you’ll at least like Deadpool 2. As for the rest of us, let’s keep our fingers crossed for a Deadpool movie that actually works.

Deadpool 2
Director: David Leitch
Starring: Josh Brolin, Ryan Reynolds, Morena Baccarin
Rated: R
Theater: Now open, area theaters