NECC Observer

The student news website of Northern Essex Community College, Haverhill and Lawrence, Mass.

Movie Review: Deadpool

★★½ (out of four stars)

I have to be honest: sometimes being a critic makes me feel like a curmudgeon. Sitting in the movie theater watching “Deadpool,” I must have laughed out loud — hard — more than three dozen times. And yet, trying to analyze my overall feelings with the movie, I have to admit I came away feeling rather cold. Perhaps that’s because, like so many other superhero movies of this day and age, “Deadpool” spends far too little time on its best qualities and far too much on a heavy-handed, unpleasant and entirely unnecessary origin story.

Not that this should be considered any sort of standard superhero movie. On the contrary, the titular hero — affectionately known as the “Merc with a Mouth” — is better described as a walking send-up of superhero tropes, particularly those of the “dark and edgy” variety. You know, basically all the superhero movies we’ve seen in the last decade or so, barring delights like 2014’s “Guardians of the Galaxy.” Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) swears, wisecracks and — unlike that goody-two-shoes from Gotham — doesn’t shy away from killing his enemies in the bloodiest and most grotesque of ways, all the while poking fun at the cliches and limitations of the genre.

These parts of the movie, perhaps unsurprisingly, are the best. The subversive humor actually begins right away, with one of the funniest and most memorable title sequences in recent memory. I’d hate to spoil it, so let’s just say the film accomplishes quite a feat in finding not just a hilarious, but also a visually stunning, way to catch your attention with the opening credits. And when this film has you in stitches, it doesn’t let up: the red-suited hero’s constant barrage of witty one-liners, twisted monologues and off-color play-by-play commentary is a sublime exercise in nonstop, sneeze-and-you’ll-miss-it comedy.

It’s rude, crude and more than a little sick: if you’ve heard about the petition to release a PG-13 version of the film (started when an 8-year-old boy begged his mother to let him see it), you’ll be laughing at the very idea of an edited version from the first five minutes. A PG-13 iteration of this movie would leave the vast majority of it on the cutting-room floor, and even then, it still wouldn’t be appropriate for an 8-year-old. Suffice it to say, this is one to watch when you’re in the mood for a little warped, nihilistic humor.

If the film’s jokes are like a boxer’s punches belting you left and right at high speed, its origin story is like a sedative that brings his energy and power levels down to dangerously low levels. You could flick that guy in the forehead and knock him out — and that’s about how flimsy it feels whenever “Deadpool” decides to drop the jokes and actually roll out its “narrative,” which is itself so shallow I feel it a crime to dedicate more than a sentence to it. So here you go: Mercenary Wade Wilson meets a girl (Morena Baccarin) he finally thinks he might settle down with, but is unfortunately diagnosed with cancer, thus causing him to be tricked into “treatment” (read: torture) by an evil British man (Ed Skrein) that makes him ugly and turns him into the superhero Deadpool. All right, all right, here’s one more sentence: Boo hoo, the girl he liked surely won’t like his ugly face now, unless he just happens to save her from capture by the same dude who tortured him in the first place.

The biggest problem, of course, is that Deadpool himself spends most of his time onscreen punching irreverent holes through these sort of hackneyed “tragic superhero” tropes — so the absence of laughs and lame attempts to get us to care about him during these “backstory” sections ring so false that I found myself wishing I had a fast-forward button. Better yet, I wish Deadpool himself had popped up onscreen to take us past all the touchy-feely garbage.

After all, he’s known for his constant fourth-wall-breaking in the comics, and a little of that would have helped immensely here — particularly during the long, dispensable and frankly unpleasant scenes where Wilson is being subjected to torture. I didn’t come here to watch Ryan Reynolds in agony, I came here to laugh. “Go back to the funny dude in red Spandex,” I felt like yelling at the screen.

So go ahead: call me a curmudgeon, tell me I have no sense of humor, do whatever it is you need to do to make yourself feel better. Just know this: I laughed long and loud through the funny sections of “Deadpool.” My only real complaint, and it’s a big one, is that I wish there were more of those sections to laugh at in the first place.