DEADPOOL (2016, Tim Miller)
“Shit-spackled muppet fart” is a phrase that would have had me giggling at age 14. All of those words are funny separately, and put together it’s a slam-dunk juvenile laugh riot. But now that I’m old and jaded and boring, it’s impossible not to realize that a) that phrase makes no sense on several levels; and b) it’s easy and lacks the real wit that causes me to laugh these days.
Fortunately, for every time the protagonist in DEADPOOL says “cock-gobbler,” there’s a real joke that works. Whether it’s a line of dialogue comparing a shaven-head emo-teen to Sinead O’Connor or the self-reflexive opening credits (that say stuff like “produced by a bunch of asshats,” or labeling Ryan Reynolds as “God’s perfect idiot”), there’s enough solid comedy to keep stuffy adults like me from totally checking out.
Fundamentally, this is a vapor-thin origin story with two basic acts: hero is tortured and mutated, hero gets revenge. There aren’t many characters, the villain has no real motivation, and the love interest is a cliché with some updated lines of vulgarity to keep in spirit with the rest of it. After the fast-paced opening 30 minutes, the ideas start to die out and it’s a chore to get to the predictable climax. The stakes are low, the tastelessness is high, and the instrumental score is noticeably bad. (The ironic use of adult contemporary/soft rock, however, in the form of Juice Newton, Wham!, and Chicago, is hard not to smirk at). From the writing team that gave us the equally violent, meta, and humorous ZOMBIELAND, it’s easy to tell if this is gonna be your thing or not. Also, your ability to handle Ryan Reynolds operating at Smart-Ass Level 11 matters a great deal. (I don’t mind him in VAN WILDER mode, or his sitcom Two Guys, A Girl, and a Pizza Place, but I prefer him when he’s really acting, like in the terrific BURIED). He’s certainly game to poke fun at himself: at one point he says “You think Ryan Reynolds got where he is on his acting method?” He also lambastes his own participation in GREEN LANTERN and the BLADE franchise. DEADPOOL is a compilation of throwing stuff at the wall to see what sticks. If you don’t mind that what they’re throwing is shit and blood, have at it. Because half of it sticks, and half of it stinks.