Movie Review: Deadpool

Movie Review: Deadpool


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Ryan Reynolds was the perfect leading man in 2009’s The Proposal and he has struggled ever since to find the right type of movie to match his unique talents, which at his best call to mind the dry humor of Clark Gable, Cary Grant and Spencer Tracy and other actors whose ironic performances never seem seedy or malicious.

Deadpool, one of the Marvel Comics-based characters and loosely tied into Fox’s X-Men series, is not that movie. But, for Reynolds, it is a start. Ryan Reynolds, as anyone who saw his spot for testicular cancer self-exams and a car commercial during Super Bowl 50 knows, is everything George Clooney was oversold as for the past 20 years: handsome, upright, comfortable in his own skin and distinctively humorous in a way that’s simultaneously barbed and bright. The makers of Deadpool, which is dark, gruesome and foul-mouthed, turn formulaic snark and bitterness inside out, wrap it around Reynolds’ irresistible screen appeal (which reminds me of James Garner) and deliver it into a thematic decency that lets the audience in on the joke.

That’s what Deadpool‘s marketing has done brilliantly for the past several months and it apparently worked. The movie opened huge at this weekend’s box office, beating both Zoolander 2 and How to Be Single and breaking records. Maybe today’s young audiences are ready for something sassy and smart if it comes in this genre. Deadpool, like Marvel’s similarly-themed Ant-Man, gets dirty and dark with cleanliness and light as the ultimate point, which is why it’s not as hard to take.

The plot is overly simple, with a young mercenary (Reynolds) meeting a lady of the evening (Morena Baccarin) and falling in love, getting funny and nasty to a montage of holiday-themed sex gags, until their bad boy and bad girl karma sneaks up and life throws a curve. Reynolds’ character ends up getting caught trying to resolve the problem in a deadly inducement of mutation by torture. A slavemaster (Ed Skrein) turns him into a would-be mutant mercenary. But the victim uses his mind to endure, resist and break free of the slavery to become the title character and strike back. All of this happens after opening credits that poke fun at Hollywood. The action is exciting, the classic soundtrack songs are perfect (especially Juice Newton’s 1980 cover of “Angel of the Morning” and “Calendar Girl”) and the computer imagery is fine.

Reynolds’ lines make the movie, though. As crude and disgusting as the material gets, with jokes about masturbation, emoji and Rosie O’Donnell displayed in that fast-talking, fragmented way today’s youths have of half-expression—i.e., “hashtag: drive-by”—Reynolds and company play bits up in order to slow down and have an impact. In mutant form, Ryan Reynolds makes his impression with snappy vocals of witty (if often vulgar) lines that underscore the contrast between the sacred and the profane.

Irreverence bridges the gap. Reynolds’s character plays with unicorns and Hello Kitty and mocks IKEA—aided by his blind roommate (Leslie Uggams in a welcome return to the screen)—and, in the end, with twists of anti-anti-heroism, he goes by his own judgment for his own sake. Deadpool may be sharp, rough and jaded, and he is, but it’s so he can cuddle, kiss and play and he does that, too. In other words, he’s made for Ryan Reynolds, who finally gets closer to making a movie his talent deserves.

Movie Review: Green Lantern

Green LanternOne of the reasons I don’t consume others’ reviews before I write my own is to avoid any influence or predisposition on my thoughts about a motion picture, which studios and artists generally work hard to create, so now I have a better understanding why some of my own friends don’t read my reviews before they see a movie that’s on their list (I try to write mine with a minimum of “spoilers” and also strive to make it worth reading after one has seen the picture). In the case of Warner Bros.’ Green Lantern, starring Ryan Reynolds (The Proposal), it was impossible to avoid exposure to the fact of negative reviews, which I did not read. Let me just say that I have a low regard for most other reviewers, with a few exceptions, such as Rex Reed and Ed Gonzalez, for a variety of reasons; most critics tend to be snide, sell out, or have a pack mentality or, worse, they have no mentality, saying nothing at all. I don’t know why they don’t like Green Lantern, which is hardly a great movie, but I do like it and here’s why.

Green Lantern is the story of a young aviator (Reynolds) who is haunted by his past, loved by a woman with a mind to match his own, and committed to a certain reverence for life. He has to overcome his flaws, which come with a dose of New Age claptrap about energy that has a core of truth about it, accept his power in full and choose to be his best. That he does, and while Green Lantern is choppy, flawed, and takes too long to set up, I’m enjoying this spate of comic book-based movies that are like old radio serials and this movie’s fine for what it is, like Thor. The downsides are that there’s not enough of Reynolds doing his witty banter, there’s too much of the college professor villain, overplayed but delectably so by Peter Sarsgaard (Kinsey), and the overworked script fails to line up myth and reality as well as Thor does.

But DC Comics’ Green Lantern‘s upsides are an American hero, who uses his brains but blasts his guns, firing upon the enemy at will, evoking the response we should have had after 9/11 to the jihadist Islamic enemy, and wiping out bad guys without mercy while unifying the good in spite of doubts of the commander of the Green Lantern Corps (Mark Strong). Free will powers up the movie’s corps of good guys, who come and go too fast, and Reynolds’ character chooses to activate his inner strength with a carefree sense of humor that makes this matinee outing an enjoyable action movie. The picture’s Ferris Aviation business, run by his spitfire love interest, Carol Ferris (brown-eyed Blake Lively), looks like a marvelous place to fly, work and create, which comes across when Reynolds shows up for work and tells her: “Now let’s get my pants off and fly some planes.” If only director Martin Campbell, who did banter nicely in Mask of Zorro, had been able to pull that sensibility through the rest of the movie. Despite its shortcomings, Green Lantern has a kind of glow.