Saturday, November 12, 2016

Deadpool (2016) ***

It's amazing how much fun you can have with the superhero genre when you aren't constrained by a PG-13 rating. That rating, which is critical to getting large numbers of teens into the theater, means you can show a little skin, but not too much; a little cursing, but nothing too foul. Of course, there can be lots and lots of violence, but preferably the kind without consequences. We don't want those 14-year-olds to think that people die horribly when you shoot them. When a filmmaker resigns himself to an R rating, it opens up more than just the level of gore and tits that can be shown. It means the film will be marketed to an older audience, so the themes and dialogue and such may be, just maybe, a bit more intelligent.

“Deadpool” isn't exactly more intelligent than the X-men movies with which it shares a comic-book universe, it's just a lot funnier. Ryan Reynolds plays Wade, a former Special Forces soldier who now ekes out a living as a thug-for-hire and smart-aleck. He hooks up with a tough-as-nails street girl named Vanessa (Morena Baccarin, who played the companion on Firefly), and the montage of their sexual exploits through the year, accompanied by the song “Calendar Girl”, is comedy gold.

Then Wade gets terminal cancer, and in his desperation for a cure he signs up for a shady,experimental program that promises to cure him and give him superpowers. The program turns out to be run by a sadist named Francis (Ed Skrein), himself a product of the program. The experiments do cure Wade, but they horribly scar his skin, leaving him as a super-strong, indestructible burn victim. Haunted by the horrified stares of strangers who see his face, Wade adopts a mask and the Deadpool moniker, and goes hunting for Francis, seeking revenge and a cure for his mutilation.

Even as “Deadpool” gleefully pokes fun at the superhero movie genre, it is, itself, trying to establish yet another superhero franchise, and the movie even pokes fun at itself for that. For all the parody, “Deadpool” still has all the elements of the genre: the origin story, the fast-paced frenetic action, the endless martial-arts fighting, the violence that only has consequences when the plot demands them. What “Deadpool” lacks is any sort of greater theme. The movie is fun and funny, but it isn't really about anything. I really wanted to absolutely love it, but I found myself forgetting it almost as fast as I watched it. Wade rejects the usual conventions of society, as well as the superhero code that the X-men try to impose on him. He basically rejects everything except his girl. Maybe in future “Deadpool”movies we will find out what he accepts.

3 stars out of 5  

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