Credit: Joe Lederer

At this point, the superhero industrial complex has become so monolithic and profitable that it would be totally understandable if its beneficiaries just continued to play it safe. After all, why mess with a winning formula? That’s why you have to applaud a film like Deadpool. It doesn’t have the most adrenalized action sequences or the deepest origin story. What it has is the balls to mess with the formula and have some naughty, hard-R fun. It’s a superhero film for the wiseasses shooting spitballs in the back of the school bus.

Introduced in the early ’90s as a snark-spewing antihero spun off from The New Mutants, Deadpool is the alter ego of Wade Wilson, a former mercenary who develops special powers like accelerated healing. Ryan Reynolds first played the character in 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine, but like everything else about that film, it was easily forgettable. Plus, Reynolds’ brief screen time only hinted at the character’s motormouthed brand of acerbic anarchy. In Deadpool, he’s finally center stage, and Reynolds fires off so many rim-shot insults in the first five minutes that he comes across like Don Rickles in spandex. For a while you find yourself giggling not because the jokes are so great (although some of them are), but because you can’t believe the Marvel brass agreed to gamble on such an edgy, profane protagonist.

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Briskly directed by Tim Miller, yet another relatively untested director who’s been given a surprisingly quick call-up to the majors, Deadpool is your basic superhero origin story. You know, wisecracking tough guy meets equally wisecracking tough girl (Morena Baccarin), they fall deeply in love and have adventurous sex, he gets turned into a hideous mutant freak by a British villain (Ed Skrein), and payback is sought so he can be reunited with his love. The plot, though, is really just the scaffolding for Reynolds’ hunky, merry-prankster charisma (good luck resisting it) and his bottomless arsenal of rat-a-tat one-liners and fourth-wall-breaking asides. The thing is, the movie’s verbal and visual gags come so fast and furious that, after a while, it gets exhausting — like being stuck in an elevator with Jim Carrey.

The jokes in Deadpool are delivered with such a sly, smart-aleck wink that it takes a while to figure out that it’s selling a jokey tone rather than actual jokes half the time. But it’s got the perfect salesman in Reynolds. Even with a face that’s been horrifically crispified into what his pal (Silicon Valley’s T.J. Miller) likens to the offspring of an avocado that had sex with an older avocado, Reynolds and his character are a blast of laughing gas in a genre that tends to take itself way too seriously. Deadpool may not be a cutting-edge comedy, but it is a cutting-edge Marvel movie. And right now, that’s something. B

  • Movie
  • 108 minutes