Gag-filled 'Deadpool' regenerates gory, immature hilarity for grown-ups (review)

"Deadpool" marks the triumphant return of the R-rated comic book hero with blunt-force, rapid-fire comedy. Hope you like your jokes vulgar, juvenile and very meta.

Luke Lancaster Associate Editor / Australia
Luke Lancaster is an Associate Editor with CNET, based out of Australia. He spends his time with games (both board and video) and comics (both reading and writing).
Luke Lancaster
4 min read
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20th Century Fox

Caution: minor spoilers ahead.

I'll say this right off the bat. "Deadpool" works very hard to earn its R rating (MA15+ in Australia and 15 in the UK). (OK, if you don't know who Deadpool is, check out our primer first.)

While there have been a handful of R-rated comic book movies over the past few years, it's usually seen as box office suicide to miss out on the younger demographic that catapulted The Avengers and their super-friends to pop culture dominance.

"Deadpool" doesn't even flirt with that lower age bracket, grabbing gory violence, nudity and profanity with both hands before doing pelvic thrusts until you start laughing. And that's as it should be.

Don't worry if you're unfamiliar with the character. Here's the short version: Former Special Forces member Wade Wilson gets terminal cancer. A shady military-industrial plot point cures him, but in the process gives him amazing regenerative powers, horrible disfigurement and a raging case of the crazies. Now he wears red spandex, fights people and makes poop jokes.

It's the same Wade Wilson you might remember (but probably don't) from 2009's "X-Men Origins: Wolverine", also played by Ryan Reynolds. In that movie, Wade is also experimented on and turned into something referred to as Deadpool, yet entirely different from the "merc with the mouth" we were expecting.

It's a minor miracle Reynolds got another shot at playing the merc with a mouth, but he and director Tim Miller were hellbent on getting it right this time around. And "right" means violent, irreverent and hilarious.

With that out of the way, "Deadpool" is still an origin story. Just when you feel like you need a break from the relentless comedy, "Deadpool" delivers. It very cleverly dresses up the trappings of the superhero origin story in flashbacks, but they're still the same unmistakable plot beats. That's just how origin stories are these days.

What they do provide is a great counterpoint to Deadpool's wacky, costumed antics. It's a window into Wade's grim past, and the buildup of his relationship with Morena Baccarin's Vanessa Carlysle is tackled with refreshing aplomb. While it may not take the trophy as the best romantic subplot in a comic book movie, it at least makes the podium thanks to one excellent montage.

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These moments are given minimal screen time, but it just serves to distil them down to snapshots of Wade's past before bringing it right back to the humour. Ultimately that's for the best, because the movie would very easily be hamstrung by focusing too much on the forgettable villain or dime-a-dozen plot. Everything that makes a modern comic book movie is there, but precisely zero percent of those constituent parts are held sacred, because "Deadpool" is far more preoccupied with being a comedy.

"Deadpool" tightly packs every kind of gag, from juvenile dick jokes to '80s referential humour to under-the-radar witticisms, into a shotgun. And once the chambers on that scatter gun approach are out of ammo, the movie then resorts to punching you in the face with seven more kinds of cracking wise. Running gags about Sinead O'Connor and "Say Anything" sit alongside Weasel (TJ Miller) riffing on just how ugly a post-transformation Wade is. It's blunt-force, rapid-fire comedy, and it's unrelentingly funny. (And as always, stay til after the credits.)


Weasel (TJ Miller) has a polite conversation with Angel Dust (Gina Carano).

20th Century Fox

Most of that is due to Reynolds running his mouth for near enough to the entire running time of the movie. The jokes are vulgar, juvenile and very meta. You should know that going in, because if that's not your cup of tea, "Deadpool" most definitely isn't for you.

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Negasonic Teenage Warhead. Remember that name.

20th Century Fox

There's no small portion of Easter eggs for fans, either. In his comic book incarnation, Deadpool knows he's a comic book character. He converses with his own caption boxes and thought bubbles. He makes meta jokes about the state of Marvel comics. Just so with cinematic Deadpool. Tongue firmly in cheek, he addresses the audience directly, poking fun at Reynolds' previous turns in "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" and "Green Lantern", 20th Century Fox and superhero movies in general.

Deadpool's backed up by C-List X-Men Colossus and his girl Friday, Negasonic Teenage Warhead. If you think Negasonic Teenage Warhead is the coolest superhero name ever put to paper, you're in good company. Because Deadpool says exactly that about a second and a half after you think it. It's just the kind of movie that seems perfectly in tune with how an audience is feeling.

Hugh Jackman also gets a best supporting actor nod as the movie's favourite whipping boy, despite the actor behind Wolverine never actually appearing in person.

If you're at all a Deadpool fan, you owe it to yourself to see what's probably the most faithful Deadpool movie we'll ever get. And if you're not, but the idea of joke credits during a freeze-frame fight scene set to Juice Newton's "Angel of the Morning" already has you smiling, "Deadpool" might just be up your alley. At the very least, I can guarantee it's unlike any other superhero movie you'll see this year.