The Firm. A Time To Kill. The Pelican Brief. Care Bares Movie II: A New Generation. All of these classic John Grisham films find their balance between wit and suspense, while tying through a convincing narrative that raises the stakes at every turn.* The first Deadpool film, on the other hand, did almost nothing to maintain balance, putting all of its chips on wit as opposed to some legitimate villain development with Francis (maybe next time, Ed Skrein). Still, Deadpool was a lot of fun.
With Deadpool 2, jokes and quips are just as flowing and side-splitting as before, but what surprised me most was the somewhat legitimate heart at the center of it all. To begin, the film feels more comfortable with the world it's set up. The movie surrounds Deadpool with a whole cast of characters to riff off of and even keep him in his place. Zazie Beetz and Josh Brolin are particular standouts, and Rob Delaney pulls off a character so likable, you might consider bringing your mother to a screening. Then again, if your mother cringes at sex jokes as much as mine does, maybe just show her clips. The action also feels more at home, with bigger stages of wacky combat and more dynamic action sequences. David Leitch directs the film with a more traditional sensibility in the superhero movie vein, which can be quite the spectacle when the brain gets used to the animations. If the film had secured a larger budget, maybe this wouldn't be as obvious, but a Deadpool movie with a grander support from corporations brings up unhappy memories of a certain Wolverine origin movie and Will.i.am in a cowboy hat.
The heart element is supposed to be found in Deadpool 2's "family" plot, a cliché of many superhero films. Good guy loses loved ones, good guy gets all edgy, "lone wolf" about it, good guy realizes that the other people in his life were the "family" he needed all along. They play up Wade Wilson's relationship to Vanessa, which doesn't stick the landing nearly as well as the misunderstood child at the center of the story. If there has ever been a better casting than Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool, then it is Julian Dennison as Russel. His comedic chops rise to match his spectacular vulnerability and anger, while giving Deadpool an emotional anchor that reflects his own feelings and faults. This connection pulls through as the stronger of the grounded moments in the film.
To support this more stirring narrative, Ryan Reynolds brings a bit more in every aspect. He's not only starring, but also co-writing and producing, and his massage-oiled fingers can be felt all throughout the film. Yes, he is back with even more wise cracks and jokes, and damn near all of them are quite funny. What was most interesting, however, was what he brought outside of the spandex. When the mask was off and it's just Wade, there's a bit of the "Spiderman" effect. When Spidey dawns the suit in just about any of his 6 movies or [insert large number] comics issues, he's quick with a zinger and very confident. Get the mask off, and he's the lovably awkward nerd that acts as a character all his own. In Deadpool 2, Ryan Reynolds allows his unmasked moments to act as more tender, vulnerable character points. These moments aren't without their jokes, but the feelings are largely more gooey and touching.
Unfortunately, these heartfelt moments and plot points creates a bit of an issue, particularly for those who consider themselves Deadpool comic purists. This entire movie is heavily sprinkled with jokes and attacks on superhero movies and media, something found at the core of the Deadpool character. And yet, the film embraces some classic tropes anyways. Namely, the "family" storyline. At this point, the film strikes a balance for a character whose sole purpose, up to this point, has been to tip the scales. Personally, I found this entirely acceptable because I think it made for a more complete story than what had come before. This film feels like an improvement in almost every way, and that is because it deviates slightly from the rigid frame of Deadpool's origins. Whether or not the embrace of hypocrisy was a conscious choice, it is a welcome one.
Deadpool 2 is a lot of fun for fans of superhero movies, and its play on the genre might even be welcome to those who can't stand to see another cape or pair of spandex underwear (also, why do we even use "pair" there? I get that it has two holes for appendages, but so do my shirts and you don't see me putting on my "pair of shirts" (yes, I'm writing this shirtless, get over it)). This was a fun direction for a character that was starting to feel one-note, and I'm curious to see if their is any gas left for new arcs and stories. Also, if you like star-studded cameo segments, hold on to your freakin' butts, because this movie has [SPOILER CENSORS].
I'm giving this one a cuddly, casual 8 out of 10, and Celine Dion's opening number a 26 out of 5.
*Care Bares Movie II: A New Generation is not a John Grisham movie, after all. That was some piss poor research on our part. But hey, at least it's better than Christmas with the Kranks, right?**
**Sadly, Christmas with the Kranks edges out the Care Bears sequel. It was close, though.