‘Deadpool 2’ Film Review: Ryan Reynolds Gives His All to a Joke Told the Second Time

The laughs and the action are still there, but not the ante-upping that makes a comedy sequel rise above

Deadpool 2
20th Century Fox

All movies are a challenge to make, but there’s something specifically tricky about crafting a comedy sequel like “Deadpool 2.” If you stray too far from the original movie that people loved, you risk alienating the fans. (Even if, like “Gremlins 2: The New Batch,” you eventually become a cult classic.)

The ultimate goal is repetition with enhancements: the best comedy sequels, like “22 Jump Street,” give you the same stuff all over again, only upping the ante so as to justify their existence. And somewhere in the middle lies “Deadpool 2,” which never betrays the promise of the first film; it just doesn’t build on it, choosing instead to replay the greatest hits.

If you’re a fan of those hits, of course, then you’ll enjoy this encore, but anyone who wasn’t amused by the first go-round isn’t going to hop on board for this entertaining but by-the-numbers do-over.

Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds), aka Deadpool, has settled into something resembling normalcy, spending his days dispatching villains — what he lacks in crime-fighting panache, he makes up for with mutant healing powers that allow him to recover from gunshot wounds and worse — and his nights cozying up to Vanessa (Morena Baccarin), the love of his life. But some terrible things happen, leaving a depressed Deadpool to crash on the couch at Professor Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters.

(There’s a funny coda here to the gag in the first movie about how chintzy this series is about providing X-Men to fight alongside Deadpool. Even if the jokes aren’t being one-upped here, they do at least get continued in a funny way.)

Deadpool accompanies Colossus (voiced by Stefan Kapicic) and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand) to take care of an incident in which young mutant Firefist (Julian Dennison, “Hunt for the Wilderpeople”) lets his powers get out of control as he tries to escape an evil mutant “rehab” — basically the equivalent of one of those despicable “pray away the gay” gulags — run by the twitchy Headmaster (Eddie Marsan).

The mission is a disaster, and Deadpool and Firefist get shipped off to “the icebox,” a Supermax prison for mutants. To make things worse, time-traveling badass Cable (Josh Brolin) is determined to kill Firefist, forcing Deadpool to become the kid’s reluctant guardian, to the point where he assembles his own super-team, including the insanely lucky Domino (Zazie Beetz, “Atlanta”) and a non-powered guy named Peter (Rob Delaney), just because.

Like the first movie, “Deadpool 2” will test your limits for “just because,” but if you like insanely over-the-top action sequences peppered with the fourth-wall-breaking non sequiturs that are the character’s stock in trade — yes, the name “Firefist” will be mocked, and yes, Deadpool calls Cable “Thanos” at one point — then you’ll be just as amused and entertained this time around as before.

Reynolds’ snark level continues to operate at maximum capacity (and that’s a good thing) and director David Leitch (“Atomic Blonde”) has reassembled ensemble players like Leslie Uggams and Karan Soni (and yes, T.J. Miller) to pop in long enough to repeat their witty shtick. Among the newcomers, Beetz provides a great deal of enjoyment as a superhero whose charmed life is weaponized against anyone who might come at her. Brolin, on the other hand, feels as one-note here as he is in “Avengers: Infinity War”; the only juicy villainy comes from Marsan’s creepy mutant-hater.

If there’s one area in which “Deadpool 2” goes to unexplored territory for the Marvel movies, it’s by giving us a non-enigmatic, canonically queer superhero: two of them, actually, since Negasonic Teenage Warhead’s girlfriend is fellow X-Men member Yukio (Shioli Kutsuna).

Does “Deadpool 2” pick up its predecessor’s baton and run off to new and exciting places? Not really. Is it as tasty as leftovers on the second day? Absolutely. Temper your expectations accordingly.