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Did we really once think that Deadpool—the R-rated, foul-mouthed bastard child of the X-Men universe—would be an Oscar contender? Memory is hazy; offhand, you instinctively want to say, “Of course not.” Of all the superhero movies released by 2016, the least likely candidate for industry respectability was the one whose promotional campaign included its star, Ryan Reynolds, promising extreme violence, gratuitous profanity, mild homoerotica, and “expertly lit French unicorn sex” on Twitter in the weeks leading up to the movies release. Sayonara, Batdork and Spiderdweeb, said the ad campaign. This is a superhero who says “fuck” and gets laid.

Which is not so ambitious, really—but you appreciated the attempt in context. Deadpool was still a silly superhero movie, but the movie knew that. It broke the fourth wall. It poked fun at its own makers. Ostensibly, it raised the bar, though really, it just clarified that the bar had been relatively low all along. Its ravenous, award-winning success was a reminder that the average Marvel and DC fare, though marketed to adults, had been damningly neutered—and that we were in the mood for something with a dash of edge, enough that Deadpool earned a gobsmacking $783 million on a $58 million budget.

Unfortunately, two movies in, the Deadpool franchise has not only already run out of jokes—its become everything it was supposed to hate. Deadpool 2, directed by David Leitch (of Atomic Blonde and John Wick) and co-written by Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick, and Reynolds himself, once again breaks the fourth wall and amps up the potty humor. It still goes for broke with enough nudge-nudge pop culture nods and aggressively ironic needle drops to leave your ribcage bruised.

But its also got a sourness to it. Jokes dont land with the force that they should because you know the punchlines already—theyre practically sing-along. The plot is an overly complex slog, to top it off, and the action, while competent—Leitch can be an inventive hand with a combat set piece—is obligingly dull. Theres no other way to put this: Deadpool 2 is a regular shmegular superhero movie, distinguished only by an obnoxiously unearned dose of “see what I did there?!” It's a drag.

An eventful drag, at least. I wont spoil the tragedy that gets the movie going; suffice it say its enough to make Deadpool, whose ability to regenerate limbs and recover from wounds makes him or more less unkillable, try to kill himself. Were stuck with him for another two hours nevertheless, following along as he winds up back at Xaviers School for Gifted Youngsters with his old pals Colossus (voiced by Stefan Kapicic) and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand)—bargain-brand X-Men, as the movie loves to joke.

They enlist him on a rescue mission that of course goes wrong, resulting in Deadpool (Wade Wilson, when the mask is off) getting sent to a prison called the Icebox. He's joined by a fiery young mutant hed tried to save, Russell (*Hunt for the Wilderpeople*s Julian Dennison), who's suffered more than his share of abuse at the hands of mutant-hating scientists and their ilk. Theirs is a fragile friendship; when trust breaks, as is inevitable, Wade spends the rest of the movie trying to earn it back.

I haven't even gotten to the superhero rescue team Deadpool assembles, called the X-Force—which features, among others, Domino (Zazie Beetz), whose mutant power is her inexplicable luck—nor to the entire plot strand featuring the machine gun-armed Cable (John Brolin), who travels from the future on a mission that has more than a little in common with Rian Johnsons Looper. Theres a lot going on in this movie. Wades pal Weasel (T.J. Miller) is back, lame as ever, as are his older black roommate Blind Al (Leslie Uggam) and dependable cab driver Dopinder (Karan Soni), punching bags willing to play the good sport to Deadpools mock-ironic racial humor.

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The gangs all here, and then some. But by supposedly breaking the rules, the first Deadpool created new ones—new ones that need again to be broken, or at least toyed with. Here, theyre merely reiterated.

Reynolds tries and tries; he has the levity and charisma to make what's off-putting about Wade Wilson come off as magnetic. Deadpool 2 feels studiously redundant nevertheless. The movie isn't really smarter than its peers, but because it's predicated on the joke of self-awareness—and carried by a loose, likable star—it's good at faking the funk. But you can only tell that joke once, really, before self-awareness erodes into tired mannerisms not unlike those the movie means to skewer.

An ever-tightening domain of cultural references makes matters worse. The movie wants to appeal to multiple generations of fanboy, but the whole thing depends on us all being hip to the same handful of inside jokes about a limited range of fairly obvious cultural touchstones. The movie cant make a Basic Instinct joke without having to explain the joke—and it treats that explanation like some sort of comment in itself.

Does Deadpool 2 know its not that funny? The movie is desperate that we all play along—but its own identity gets lost in the process. What was useful about this franchise—its reminder that nothing about this genre is sacred, that it shouldn't fear its own rough edges—has been sapped of its wit and spark. The movie makes fun of everything, under the guise of being different from all the other superhero movies; in the end, it's not.

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