If there is one mo­ment in Dead­pool 2 that even brushes against ma­tu­rity, Barry Hertz missed it

The Globe and Mail (Alberta Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - BARRY HERTZ

This snarky su­per­hero se­quel is a movie that feels scrib­bled in pen­cil crayon, drenched in Jolt cola and coated with the dust of a thou­sand dis­carded bags of Flamin’ Hot Chee­tos

Dead­pool 2 CLAS­SI­FI­CA­TION: 18A; 113 MIN­UTES

Di­rected by David Leitch Writ­ten by Rhett Reese,

Paul Wer­nick and Ryan Reynolds Star­ring Ryan Reynolds, Josh Brolin and Zazie Beetz

While I am no longer 10 years old, be­ing a film critic means I get to in­dulge my in­ner child more of­ten than oth­ers. It is al­most a pre­req­ui­site for the job, given how fer­vently the film in­dus­try – mostly since its in­cep­tion, but es­pe­cially over the past quar­ter-cen­tury – bows down at the al­tar of the tweenage boy.

Never be­fore have the de­mands of my in­ner man-child been so stirred, though, than while ex­pe­ri­enc­ing Dead­pool 2,a movie that feels scrib­bled in pen­cil crayon, drenched in Jolt cola and coated with the dust of a thou­sand dis­carded bags of Flamin’ Hot Chee­tos.

The se­quel to 2016’s sur­prise hit – which proved that the global box of­fice could not only stom­ach a comic-book char­ac­ter who swears and slays, but was des­per­ate for such a bad wid­dle boy – is the clos­est Hol­ly­wood’s su­per­hero in­dus­trial com­plex has come to ap­peal­ing di­rectly to the mind of a Grade 5 class­room. The vi­o­lence is ex­treme and non-stop. The edit­ing is per­fect for those whose at­ten­tion spans are taxed by Snapchat. The jokes hit upon ev­ery ele­men­tary school kid’s favourite sub­jects: comic books, movies about comic books, sex (but only some vague no­tion of sex – as if view­ing a porn video through a scram­bled pay-per­view feed or, for to­day’s gen­er­a­tion, via a slow-to-buf­fer WiFi con­nec­tion). If there is one mo­ment in the film that even brushes against ma­tu­rity, I missed it. Prob­a­bly be­cause I was too busy won­der­ing how long I could pre­vent my own (now 3½-year-old) son from get­ting his hands on this.

That is a de­press­ing cal­cu­la­tion, though, and Dead­pool 2 has no time and cer­tainly no pa­tience for such men­tal ex­er­cises. Its plot com­bines sev­eral nar­ra­tive threads from its comic-book source ma­te­rial and blends them to­gether until they’re stupidly sim­ple to swal­low. Our ti­tle char­ac­ter (a.k.a. Wade Wil­son, played by the walk­ing Cana­dian smirk that is Ryan Reynolds) is busy do­ing his merc-with-a-mouth shtick, killing bad guys for cash while re­gen­er­at­ing any limbs or vis­cera that might be lost in the process thanks to a truly gross su­per­power. He’s still got a lov­ing girl­friend (Morena Bac­carin), a few dopey side­kicks (in­clud­ing T.J. Miller, wisely down­played this time around) and a pen­chant for bust­ing through the fourth wall with a Kool-Aid Man-like fe­roc­ity. So far, so tol­er­a­ble.

But then a time-trav­el­ling grump from the fu­ture named Cable (Josh Brolin, look­ing gen­uinely up­set to be here) crosses Dead­pool’s path, on the hunt for a kid (Ju­lian Den­ni­son) who has the po­ten­tial to grow up into the Earth’s worst nightmare, and then Dead­pool 2 suc­cumbs to the same comic-book tropes that it so fre­quently mocked the first time out.

Back in di­rec­tor Tim Miller’s first film, the stakes were low and re­fresh­ingly sim­ple – it was enough just to watch Reynolds do his wink-wink nudge-nudge thing and chop up some bad guys while talk­ing smack about Hugh Jack­man. At least it felt an inch or two out of step with the over­whelm­ing same­ness of the Marvel Cin­e­matic Uni­verse, and more en­ter­tain­ing than Warner’s grim DC efforts.

With Miller out, re­placed by David Leitch (Atomic Blonde, John Wick), Reynolds drafted onto the orig­i­nal screen­writ­ing team of Rhett Reese and Paul Wer­nick, and box-of­fice ex­pec­ta­tions sky­high from stu­dio 20th Cen­tury Fox, the en­ter­prise dou­bles down to the point of glut­tony. More guts, more cameos, more gags that aim for sub­ver­sive­ness but are so repet­i­tive that they loop back around to be­ing oblig­a­tory and self-de­feat­ing. (One joke about the pop­u­lar­ity of dub­step on movie sound­tracks is fine; two is a crim­i­nal act. Ditto the film’s only truly funny scene – a straight rip-off of MacGru­ber.)

The ma­te­rial is all de­liv­ered with such brazen con­fi­dence and mania that it is al­most im­pres­sive. The fact that the film can mock the con­ven­tions of its sis­ter X-Men movies in one breath and ex­ploit the worst nar­ra­tive crutches of comics in an­other (look up “Women in Re­frig­er­a­tors” af­ter­ward, if you want to have a re­ally bad day) in­di­cates the film is in­her­ently con­flicted with it­self. There is an in­ter­est­ing su­per­hero movie lurk­ing in here, some­where. If the orig­i­nal movie had only earned, say, half of its US$783-mil­lion, maybe we would’ve got­ten to see it, too. As it is, Dead­pool 2 is a film that is merely ag­gres­sively ag­gres­sive.

There are bright spots. Mostly these hap­pen when­ever Zazie Beetz is on­screen, play­ing the charm­ing mu­tant Domino, whose su­per­power is be­ing incredibly lucky. Or when New Zealand ex­port Den­ni­son is al­lowed to open his mouth in­stead of spray­ing CGI fire all over the screen – though his dead­pan strengths are bet­ter em­ployed in 2016’s Hunt for the Wilder­peo­ple (di­rected by Taika Waititi, who in last year’s gen­uinely funny Thor: Rag­narok deftly ac­com­plished what Reynolds and com­pany only ache to do with the genre here).

And, of course, the kids will love it. Sure, the film is rated R in the United States, and 18A in On­tario, en­sur­ing no 10-year-old should touch it. But kids can be clever – or, at least more clever than Dead­pool 2.

Dead­pool 2 is now play­ing.

Dead­pool (Ryan Reynolds) and Colos­sus (voiced by Ste­fan Kapi­cic) are among the mu­tant stars of the de­press­ingly cal­cu­lated Dead­pool 2.

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