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'Deadpool' is an anti-Marvel film that's deeply in love with itself

Trying to push against homogenous cliches, a renegade superhero movie goes too far the other way.
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    Before he gets deformed, Ryan Reynold's Wade Wilson is very much in love with his |Joe Lederer

‘Deadpool’
Director:
Tim Miller
Stars: Ryan Reynolds, Morena Baccarin
Rating: R
2 (out of 5) Globes

If you’re burnt-out on the never-ceasing glut of assembly line superhero movies, you’re in luck. There’s a hard-R entry with gleeful ultraviolence, a potty mouth and even some naughty bits, all designed to activate the feral teenager boy that may still lurk in us all, whether we ever were one or not. It’s called “Kick-Ass.” But it came out in 2010, and in that time roughly 10,000 Marvel movies have crammed into the collective consciousness, with more en route into infinity. We may forget it (and its far lesser sequel) ever happened.

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“Deadpool” doesn’t seem to remember it, which is why it thinks it’s special for doing basically the same thing. A Marvel movie for those who think they’re sick of Marvel movies but aren’t really, it’s as epically pleased with itself as Ryan Reynolds’ lead performance. It proudly flaunts its depravities — bad words, head shots, a gleefully amoral protagonist, a line about ’bating to Bernadette Peters — like a cat sitting next to milk it keeps spilling. Where “Ant-Man” only gently nudged weary conventions, “Deadpool” goes full throttle into attack mode, with a character who breaks the fourth wall to mock Marvel movies directly, even taking potshots at the listless “Green Lantern” movie that once starred Reynolds himself.

On one hand that’s a good thing. Reynolds wasn’t particularly animated in that failed franchise starter. Still, he’s nothing but engaged in “Deadpool.” And therein lies what makes it unique and often unbearable. When he started out as a sitcom star and comedy movie staple, Reynolds could be unbearably manic, every eyebrow arch and head tilt delivered with robotic efficiency, his self-love squeezing all life from the jokes.

He’s tried hard to get away from that, to seem actually human in films like “Buried” and “Mississippi Grind.” “Deadpool” brings the old shtick back with a vengeance. He spends the film’s bulk hidden behind a crimson red mask, but you can all but see him bulging his eyes and cracking wacky faces underneath. Throughout this origin story (see, it’s not so different after all!), Reynolds’ Wade Wilson contracts cancer and winds up transformed by a sadistic mad scientist (Ed Skrein) into an unkillable but deformed monster. But even at his worst Wilson/Deadpool never passes up an opportunity to prance or to turn his head to the camera, mid-shoot-out, to crack, “S—, did I leave the gas on?”

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If you find that joke gut-busting rather than just mildly humorous, then you’ll love “Deadpool,” whose every pore teems with easy, oft-bro-ish jokes, many aimed at man-children who, like Reynolds, grew up in the ’80s and ’90s. He quotes “RoboCop” and “Notting Hill.” Like “Just Friends,” one of Reynolds’ classic (or “classic”) old school comedies, the film likes its music cheesy and ironically deployed, from Wham! to “Angel of the Morning” (blasted over a still frame joke opening credits sequence that finds our lead’s crotch embedded in a baddie’s face, natch). He’s so keyed-up that the token comic relief — a hipster bartender bestie played by T.J. Miller — just stands around and looks depressed from under-use.

Thing is, “Deadpool” can be entertaining. It embraces its out-there plot, filled with bizarre twists and turns. Marvel oversaturation makes it easy to overrate a comic book movie that cares about every square inch of its script — one that’s going out of its way to entertain in all caps. One might even forgive that our hero is essentially a regressive douchebag who gets off on torture and wiping out anonymous henchmen, and even stiffs a nice cabbie not once but twice.

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There are so many distractions that we might not even notice that the story is essentially about a handsome, eternally self-pleased dude who’s so obnoxious the bad guy makes him ugly. He’s only killing everyone because he’s no longer People’s Sexiest Man Alive, and he even avoids his devoted ladyfriend (Morena Baccarin, charming) solely because he thinks she won’t take to his scarred bod. It’s a film so cocksure about being the greatest movie ever that even its affable bits start to seem suspect. The overstuffed comfort food mania of “Captain America: Civil War” can’t come fast enough.

Follow Matt Prigge on Twitter @mattprigge

 

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