Deadpool film

DEADPOOL Review: I See What You Did There, the Movie

Monday, February 15, 2016 Rob Samuelson


Director: Tim Miller
Writers: Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Karan Soni, Ed Skrein, T.J. Miller, Morena Baccarin, Brianna Hildebrand
Rating: One and a half stars out of five
Available in theaters now

Punk rock is, at its core, a critique of dominant musical, social, and political structures. It is a conscious stripping down of the excesses of what came before it and/or exist alongside it – the 10-minute noodle guitar work of Pink Floyd and Yes, an embrace of simple (if provocatively spiky) clothing, an angry voice directed at abuse of power. Punk rock is also a hat hormonal teenage boys wear so they have a false excuse to be obnoxious all day, every day, their shallow understanding of their heroes not allowing them to contend with the points raised by those musicians.

Deadpool is that obnoxious teenage boy, screaming into the void in the vain hope that someone will pay attention to it. From the word go, it commits – you have to give it that, it really goes for it – to that surface punk ethos of being a big, exhausting journey into a world of faux-irreverence that would be mocked by the Looney Tunes writers' room for trying so painfully hard. Ryan Reynolds, as the “merc with a mouth” anti-hero at the movie's center, talks in a register that is an octave or so above his usual speaking voice, inflecting his every line an Alvin and the Chipmunks fast-forward effect. But unlike “The Chipmunk Song” that you hear every holiday season, it lasts much longer than three minutes. It is charming for none of those minutes.

It is a movie that could stand to calm down a great deal. When it stops to collect itself, like in its admittedly solid origin story construction – bits of Deadpool/Wade Wilson's life are interspersed via flashback throughout a single set piece along a stretch of highway – Deadpool becomes somewhat worthwhile. There is a hint of charm in Reynolds's performance as the non-mutated version of the guy in the red suit, even if his dialogue feels like it was written by an insecure 15-year-old imitating the wicked attitude of Shane Black (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang) and Judd Apatow's “razzing your buddies” putdowns, with constant surface-level observational comedy delivered with a smug smirk.

Insecurity is all over the film, with numerous references to how dumb comic book movies are (there are multiple nods to Reynolds's other failed big screen superhero, Green Lantern), more specifically how dumb X-Men movies are (steel-skinned Colossus is nothing but a wet blanket with a Russian accent, and there are at least three instances of attempted Wolverine takedowns), and how dumb it is, itself. Deadpool breaks the fourth wall, literally Ferris Bueller-style, to complain about the budget being too low, and the opening credits have the sort of “we're so awful” detachment – it's self-awareness without any self-respect.

Except, in true unsure-of-itself-teenager fashion, it swings all the way around to being fraudulently pleased with itself all the same, without earning its self-regard. Deadpool, in voiceover, brags about how the girlfriends in the audience must be so shocked by the sight of him using his twin katana swords to stab a man through the chest in slow motion, when it is barely any more violent than the PG-13 adventures of Wolverine and the X-Men proper. Its violence has been far exceeded, and to more purposeful, satiric effect, in the R-rated comic book adaptations by Matthew Vaughn (Kick-Ass, Kingsman: The Secret Service). Deadpool has no larger meaning to its violence, no lesson to impart about the uselessness of chaos. It revels in it because it's all a poorly constructed joke delivered too rapidly to have any impact.

But it's all right, Deadpool. You can keep wearing your Rancid t-shirt and screaming for attention while you work on your gel-encrusted mohawk. 

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