When it comes to offensive material in movies, the line keeps getting pushed further and further out. Gross-out gags, profanity for profanity’s sake, and ultra-violence are the norm in certain genres, but the majority of the time those elements only seem to be there to cover up storytelling or filmmaking deficiencies.
Not so in Deadpool, which manages to maintain its wit and charm despite being offensive as hell. Ryan Reynolds stars as the titular anti-superhero — real name: Wade Wilson — a mercenary who’s subjected to a torturous experiment that allows him to develop supernatural healing powers, at the expense of having his entire body look like melted cheese.
The film, helmed by first-time feature director Tim Miller, jumps back and forth in time. It trails Deadpool as he tries to hunt Ajax (Ed Skrein), who inflicted much of the pain on him, while also showing earlier, happier times with girlfriend Vanessa (Morena Baccarin). Bridging both worlds is a friendship with Weasel (T.J. Miller), the bartender at the bar full of rogues which Wade/Deadpool frequents.
What is a constant throughout, though, is a stream of never-ending jokes. It starts in the title sequence, which eschews actual names for insults for everybody from Miller to Reynolds, and Wade/Deadpool carries it on, as his sense of humor and mouth have no off buttons. Not all the jokes land, but the vast majority of them do, leaving the audience bludgeoned by an avalanche of comedy.
That theme transfers over to the film’s multiple violent scenes. What Miller and his team, which includes the writers of Zombieland, understand is how to keep the balance between being too inane and too serious. It could be that Deadpool cracks wise even while carrying out his dastardly deeds, or that the bloodshed is gratuitous without being off-putting. But somehow the filmmakers found a way to appeal to a broad audience without treating us like we’re idiots.
They also provide a ton of fan service, referencing both real and movie world events. Deadpool is related to the X-Men universe, with two characters — Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead — making appearances here. Jokes made at the expense of Deadpool’s ill-fated appearance in a previous X-Men film and of Reynolds’ own checkered superhero past are among the funniest in the whole movie.
The biggest reason for the film’s success is the inherent charisma of Reynolds — his good looks don't even figure into the equation. He utilizes multiple funny approaches, including “breaking the fourth wall” (i.e., talking directly to the audience), making it next to impossible to be disgusted by anything he does, even when he does distasteful things. It was Reynolds’ passion for the project that led to it finally seeing the light of day, and he appears to be relishing every second of it.
After a month and a half of stinkers, Deadpool is finally the first movie of 2016 worth paying money to see in the theaters. It’s an equal-opportunity offender, and it’s completely awesome.