There are parts of Deadpool, a loving send-up of superhero comic book movies starring Ryan Reynolds, that I adore. There are parts of it I loathe down to the core of my being.
And then there are parts that evoke both reactions simultaneously. Those hurt the most.
Director Tim Miller's freshman outing, which is sure to be a mega blockbuster, features a career-making performance by Reynolds as Wade Wilson, a special-forces soldier turned low-end mercenary who finds out he has terminal cancer - like, all over the joint.
His luck seems to turn when a charming British knave (Ed Skrein) recruits him to take part in an experimental treatment that will turn him into a superhero. His cancer would, of course, be cured in the process.
The Brit seems to be so ashamed of his given name Francis that he goes by Ajax. He turns out to be really, really evil. Ajax and his henchperson Angel Dust (MMA champ Gina Carano) use their weird science to ruin Wade's skin - the poor guy's crater-riven face looks like a combination of the dark side of the moon and a sausage pizza.
Wade and Ajax wage battle. Even though his body now regenerates rapidly, Wade loses. Wade rebrands himself a superhero named Deadpool. Then some other stuff happens. Then at the end of the third act, Ajax and Deadpool battle again.
There's also a love story. I'll get to that.
Reynolds channels Jim Carrey and the late, great, hypermanic Robin Williams as Deadpool. He's a wiseacre with a really big motormouth who can't stop talking - he narrates his story, explains his motivation and otherwise addresses the audience directly. It's très Pirandello. The dude can't help making crass, sexually loaded comments, drop obscene jokes or pass wind in a loud and ostentatious manner.
Even though he had me in stitches for considerable stretches of time, Reynolds takes it too far. The whole movie pushes the joke to near breaking point. Beginning with the opening credits - the stars and filmmakers' names are replaced with dirty puns - we're subjected to a really low-down, cheap brand of humor. Reynolds and his costars - including T.J. Miller, who plays Deadpool's BFF Weasel, and Leslie Uggams as the mercenary's roommate, a blind elderly woman - discourse in the kind of dirty babble you'd expect from 16-year-old stoners.
There's nothing less sexy than Beavis and Butthead jabber, so it comes as a shock when Reynolds steps up, rather than suppressing, his puerile banter when his character meets the story's love interest, Vanessa (Morena Baccarin), a former escort with a body to die for who happens to have the same mega-geeky comic-book tastes as Wade.
The film's major conflicts make sense only in the context of Wade's all-consuming, I'd-rather-die-than-lose-her passion for Vanessa. But their courtship feels more like a bull session between a couple of newly arrived college freshmen who share ultra-earnest tidbits about the meaning of life while sharing a crusty bong.
Wade and Vanessa have a lot of hot sex, of course, but it's tempered by this childish creepiness. The duo act as if they are playing at being in love and not actually in that glorious state. The whole thing rings false and contrived.
My grousing aside, Deadpool is, on the whole, a big bowl of fun filled with great stunts, gory fight scenes, and sexy poses.