In the fifth grade – maybe it was the fourth grade; I don’t remember exactly – my parents left me home alone for the entire night without a babysitter. It didn’t turn out to be that remarkable of an evening. If I remember correctly – and, for the life of me, I very well may not be remembering this correctly – it was spent watching Friday Night Videos with one of my neighborhood friends … a friend who I just knew would be my friend for life, but now haven’t spoken to since I was in the fifth grade. (But I didn’t know that then. I didn’t know how it really worked. Let’s be quiet about it, I don’t want to ruin it for my former self because I remember he had fun that night.)
Another thing I remember doing a lot that night was cussing. Oh, I cussed up a storm. I think almost every sentence contained the word “shit” because, well, I could say it without getting in trouble. In the context of the sentences, it didn’t even make sense. I was saying stuff like, “What’s the shit channel that Friday Night Shit Videos is on?” Then, “Look at this shit video from The Fixx. What the shit?”
As an aside, the opening intro to Friday Night Videos is still kind of awesome.
Anyway, if you could have watched me that night: Me, cussing up a storm for no reason whatsoever and using cuss words where they don’t even really belong, just because I could… well, that’s kind of what it’s like to watch the R-rated Deadpool.
First of all, I really wanted to like Deadpool more than I did, because if any movie genre needs a well-done satire, it’s the superhero movie. (“Well-done,” so this excludes the terrible Superhero Movie, which somehow came out more than a month before the first Iron Man movie.) But the biggest problem with Deadpool is that it just keeps telling us over and over just how edgy and clever and crazy of a movie it is, but what we see on screen is just the same ol’ stuff we see in every superhero movie. Yeah, sure, there’s more CGI blood and guts – and cussing!!! – but who cares? (I guess maybe teens. Teens will probably like the blood and expletives.)
Ryan Reynolds plays Wade Wilson, a character he also played in the terrible X-Men Origins: Wolverine film that is pretty much completely ignored, except when making a [Franchise Title Here] Origins: [Minor Character Here] joke. (For example: Star Wars Origins: Ric Olié. I know, hilarious, right?)
And Deadpool does reference how poorly Deadpool’s character was handled in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, but not as biting as we might all hope – at least when compared to all of the other references this movie makes. Anyway, the plot:
Told in flashbacks, Wade Wilson (not the former Vikings quarterback) is a former special ops soldier who was working as a two-bit mercenary – we see him threatening a pizza delivery guy who also happens to be stalking a woman. Wade falls in love with a stripper (Morena Baccarin) and, for a little bit, they seem to be living happily ever after. Wade is diagnosed with cancer and with no other options, agrees to be a test subject on a process that will not only cure his cancer, but also turn him into a superhero. Of course he was mostly lied to, as the process does give him healing powers, but leaves Wade horribly disfigured and now his captors want to use him as basically their superhuman slave.
If all of this sounds like a drawn out origin story, yes, it’s another drawn out origin story. Deadpool can fancy itself up as much as it wants and insist it’s something totally different. But, yep, here we are: Another superhero movie origin story.
That’s not to say there aren’t some clever moments. The opening credits may be my favorite part of the film. Instead of listing Ryan Reynolds, we get “God’s Perfect Idiot,” followed by Reynolds on the cover of People’s “Sexiest Man Alive” issue. We also see credits for “a moody teen” and “a CGI character.” Later, when Colossus from the X-Men tells Deadpool that they all have to see “the Professor,” Deadpool asks, “McAvoy or Stewart?” That’s really funny! And I wish the whole movie could have sustained that irreverent tone. (T.J. Miller, as Wade’s friend and bartender, tries his best to keep this going.) There are certain parts of the movie that are frustrating because the film — the first feature from director Tim Miller — feels like it’s really on the right track. Then it morphs into stuff we’ve either seen way too many times or gets too caught up in its freedom to cuss and show decapitated heads.
I can’t help but think Deadpool would have worked better as completely its own thing. It’s only about 20 minutes into the movie when two members of the X-Men show up for reasons that aren’t really that great. But see, it’s a crossover movie! And maybe that’s why, no matter how much the movie likes to tell us that it’s making a superhero spoof, it’s really just another superhero movie, one that still has to fit in with what Fox is doing with the rest of its Marvel properties. I’m sure this is a concession that had to happen to get this movie made, which on the surface makes sense… but this movie feels very close to being something different. But it isn’t. And that’s just enough to make a person want to cuss.
Mike Ryan lives in New York City and has written for The Huffington Post, Wired, Vanity Fair and New York magazine. He is senior entertainment writer at Uproxx. You can contact him directly on Twitter.