Deadpool stands out from other superhero movies in that its title character is a raging weirdo. He’s not adverse to blasting through a bad guy’s head with bullets, and he has a rabid disregard for other people’s comfort zones. Just like in the comics, Deadpool has the Bugs Bunny ability to break the 4th wall and talk to the audience. He addresses the audience by looking at the camera or narrates with colloquial voice-over. Most of the story is standard superhero origin mumbo-jumbo, but when Deadpool is suited up and the action is piping hot, the movie hits its stride.
In terms of performance, adaptation and realization, Ryan Reynolds’s Deadpool is pitch perfect. The on-screen Deadpool is identical to his comic book counterpart in terms of movement, humor and unpredictability. The tone of the movie can be best described as violent, irreverent and zany, a step beyond The Kingsmen but not quite as wacky as The Mask. Reynolds delights in the role like a kid in an elevator pressing all the buttons. There is a strange seamless chemistry between actor and character, as if the humor of the comics was personally designed for Reynolds’s delivery. It almost goes without saying to praise Reynolds as there is so much non-stop full-force Deadpool voice in the movie that it nearly becomes overwhelming. If only Fox had given the filmmakers enough money to get Hugh Jackman as Wolverine we might have gotten a B-plot somewhere.
The story is so cookie-cutter it almost makes Wolverine look like Hamlet. But the humor is the real driving force here, so your enjoyment of the movie will largely depend on how deeply you know your comic books and how much you enjoy watching Reynolds talk about a bullet hole in his ass. It’s unfortunately an obligatory origin story, paint-by-numbers. Odder still, the romantic and body horror elements of the plot are treated with strange reverence when compared to the Duke Nukem style action sequences. I could have done with more tongue-in-cheek humor during these pseudo-scary moments.
The villain isn’t interesting, but Deadpool’s jokes at his expense make up for it. We’ve got a bajillion X-Men bad guys to choose from and we get this bad guy? He doesn’t even have a clear evil scheme. Stop Deadpool? Avoid Deadpool? Attract Deadpool? The movie veers off into giving side characters screen-time rather than explaining the plot. Then again, do we really need another story about a villain trying to blow up the world? It’s a straight-up grudgematch in Deadpool, and that serves the Merc with a Mouth quite well. There are some logical gaps overlooked to fit the film’s shrinking budget and ballooning insanity, but it all works in a screwball way. The average American filmgoer is pre-programmed to understand superhero origin stories by now, so a tweaked one is a welcome mix-up.
That being said, the jokes could use a little tweaking too. For as much of the comedy works, the screenwriters are fearful to poke fun at Sony and Disney, competing studios that also own Marvel properties. The film could have used its meta-humor to make broader satiric points about the state of superhero movies, but it chose instead to make jests at Reynolds’s expense. It’s self-effacing and funny, but it doesn’t have the same satiric edge as the comics or even The Simpsons. There is a sense that the writers pulled those punches and stuck to X-Men formula to keep the studio happy, which makes sense, but keeps the film from reaching the comedic heights of Tropic Thunder. It also locks the movie’s humor in sophomoric territory without the wit or precision of South Park. It’s more of a scattershot Mel Brooks approach. I’m impressed that the writers managed to give the film any romantic or dramatic tension at all considering how wild it is.
Deadpool himself sticks out like a sore thumb in the movie’s dour blue-grey visuals, and that’s perfect for a character trying to distance himself from the X-Men and their generally humorless heroics. Fans will be pleased that the film does the titular character justice, even if it spends so much time setting up his origins that the rest of the story feels hollow. Though its appeal might be lost on general audiences, there is just enough charm for Deadpool to coast by as a unique and memorable film, if not a particularly meaningful one. It’s worth noting that my friday night crowd was filled with too-young tweens and kids accompanied by their parents, in spite of the film’s gore and nudity. The audience was packed and roaring with laughter at times, so maybe for whatever reason, this is just the right place and right time for Deadpool, Christmas or not.