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REVIEW — “Deadpool 2”

Bigger isn’t always better, but Deadpool 2 is the rare sequel that is bigger, better, and funnier than its predecessor.

Deadpool 2 finds the Merc with a Mouth (Ryan Reynolds) set on an unexpected trajectory when the anti-hero, following a downturn in his personal life, is recruited by Colossus (Stefan Kapicic) of the X-Men to use his powers for good. When Deadpool finds himself in the sights of time-traveling mutant mercenary Cable (Josh Brolin), the heroic not-a-superhero is forced to prove his heart is in the right place when he recruits lucky mutant Domino (Zazie Beetz) and forms supergroup X-Force in an attempt to save Rusty Collins (Julian Dennison) from certain death at the hands of a one-eyed, one-armed Terminator.

Much like its titular sword-slinging, chimichanga-loving mutate, Deadpool 2 is zany, hilarious, and surprisingly, but welcomingly, full of heart.

The sequel ups the ante and adds to its corner of the X-verse with fun new additions in Beetz’ fortuitous Domino and Brolin’s gruff Cable, who make a striking impression and handedly sell the idea of the in-the-works X-Force spinoff from producer Ryan Reynolds and writer-director Drew Goddard (The Cabin in the Woods, Bad Times at the El Royal).

Deadpool 2 is still the raunchy, irreverent and adult-oriented National Lampoon-esque take on the comic book movie genre, but there’s now a little more superhero injected into its nonconforming veins; for some, this may come as a slight following the “f— conventional superhero movies” attitude of the first, but this is still a series inspired by a black-and-red clad super-human Marvel Comics character long tangentially related to the X-Men franchise, and it’s far from a step down for Deadpool 2 to adopt some of the traits of its comic book movie brethren.

The sequel — penned by returning Deadpool screenwriters Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese, with a co-writing credit for leading man Ryan Reynolds, his first — paid no mind to “less is more,” because it adds more characters and bigger action, with a stepped-up presentation to boot (no doubt a result of Deadpool winning the title of highest-grossing R-rated movie of all time).

Despite its new additions, Deadpool 2 never feels overwhelmed by a bloated cast and, most importantly, the narrative is never hijacked from Reynolds’ Wade Wilson, who remains the indisputable star. Most characters are used just enough to leave you wanting more — whether that be X-Force or a Deadpool 3 — but never so little that you’re left feeling unsatisfied.

Deadpool 2’s action is more slick and more exciting than the first, now steered by John Wick and Atomic Blonde director David Leitch, who retains Deadpool’s sense of humor and sense of fun while simultaneously delivering an excessively pleasing action movie. It would be easy for Deadpool 2 to get mangled from too many characters, or too much action, or not enough comedy, or to lose its tone somewhere in the chaos, but Deadpool 2 is perfectly balanced — yes, as all things should be.

If there’s one big penalty flag to be chucked Deadpool 2’s way, it’s how a well-worn sci-fi trope retroactively robs Deadpool 2 of its stakes or consequences. But because this is Deadpool, it can get away with not taking this sh—t seriously — even if certain developments could be written off as cop outs.

The stakes aren’t as high as Marvel Studios’ Avengers: Infinity War — nor should they be, and Deadpool 2 never tries or even thinks about reaching such grandiosity — because Deadpool 2 is a breezy ass-kicker meant to entertain and amuse, something it pulls off in spades, making it the front-runner for funnest movie of the summer.

Deadpool 2: ★★★★ / ★★★★★

Deadpool 2 opens Friday.

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