Josh Brolin as Cable in “Deadpool 2.” (Twentieth Century Fox via AP)

Tamara’s Take

Remember “Gilmore Girls?” Do you recall having to decipher the high-speed banter between Rory and Lorelei as they bounce off pop culture references off each other? At least you didn’t have to have watched or read whatever their references were, but for Wade and his mercenary alter ego Deadpool, not even an “Access Hollywood” correspondent could get all the meta moments in the fun-filled sequel, “Deadpool 2.”

The Merch with the Mouth (Ryan Reynolds) is back, killing bad guys for hire until tragedy hits. Just as Wade/Deadpool has lost all hope, he joins the X-Men with Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand) and Colossus (voiced by Stefan Kapicic) as a trainee sent to disarm a troubled teen mutant Firefist (Julian Dennison) who threatens to engulf Essex Home for Mutant Rehabilitation. Although he really doesn’t care much for the youngster, Deadpool decides to protect Firefist from the home’s sinister methods and from the arrival of Cable (Josh Brolin), a tough time-traveler who wants to kill the kid because of what the teen will do in the future. Deadpool returns to being an outsider that he was.

“Deadpool 2” is not that much different from the first; it’s full of the Red One’s snark and obsession with Hugh Jackson. This round has even more layers of these things than the first, and at times, the actual story line can get lost. If you spend too much time figuring out why Deadpool is wearing a T-shirt of two cats and the meaning behind it (they’re Taylor Swift’s cats), you can forget that there is a mission Deadpool is on to save or protect Firefist. Along for the ride is his newly formed X-Force, with Peter (Rob Delaney), just a regular guy; and four mutants, Zeitgeist (Bill Skarsgård), Bedlam (Terry Crews), Vanisher (just some dude, nobody important), and Domino (Zazie Beetz). Domino stands out as her ability to bend luck in her favor seems like a wimpy superpower to have, but it works out very well for the team.

There is a lot to like about “Deadpool 2,” from the supporting cast to the laughs it has at itself and every comic book movie to have been on the big screen in the last three years. By the way, if you have only seen “Deadpool” and nothing else in the last three years, rev up the Netflix engine and get to know what you have missed. First, it continues what 2018 will be known for – the summer of Brolin. After destroying audiences as Thanos in “Avengers: Infinity War,” Brolin doesn’t crack a smile or even enjoys hunting down Firefist as Cable. He plays it more as an antihero than a villain. Like Deadpool not being a clear-cut hero, there’s not real baddie in this movie. Domino is good as the anti-Deadpool, not shooting her mouth off, but letting her luck and fighting style speak for itself. Beetz, who has a short but growing resume, is impressive in this Marvel role. Dennison, best known for his role in the indie film “Hunt for the Wilderpeople,” gets to relive the personality of an angry teen with a makeshift family.

But the movie belongs to Reynolds. Serving as its star, producer and writer, Reynolds goes for an over-the-top performance that could not be contained in comic panels. This was meant for the big screen. Even those who are not a Reynolds fan will like “Deadpool 2,” especially since he pokes fun of his actual self at the end.

3.5 out of 5 stars

Zazie Beetz as Domino “Deadpool 2.” (Joe Lederer/Twentieth Century Fox via AP)

Rebecca’s Take

The most meta superhero around, Wade Wilson/Deadpool would be the first to point out that movie sequels go for bigger, faster and bolder. “Deadpool 2” dials up the laughs, action and violence that distinguished the ground-breaking original from other comic book films.

The team behind Marvel’s wise-cracking Merc with a Mouth knows what fans of the R-rated 2016 hit want, with plenty of raunchy humor, cheeky fourth-wall breaking and likable new characters. But bigger doesn’t always mean better. While “Deadpool 2” is funnier and more action-packed than its predecessor, the crowded sequel gets bogged down by a meandering story.

Ryan Reynolds is once again perfectly cast as Wade Wilson/Deadpool, the foul-mouthed anti-hero who is just as sharp wielding one-liners as he is slicing his way through bad guys with his katana blades. But the gleefully violent mercenary also has a soft side as he looks to start a family with his girlfriend, Vanessa (Morena Baccarin).

After tragedy strikes, Deadpool encounters a young mutant, Firefist (Julian Dennison), who is being chased by menacing time-traveling assassin Cable (Josh Brolin). Deadpool finds a new purpose in protecting the boy and puts together a motley crew of mutant-powered humans. Riffing off the X-Men, the X-Force includes strongman Bedlam (Terry Crews), the lucky Domino (Zazie Beetz), acid-vomit spewing Zeitgeist (Bill Skarsgard), mullet-wearing alien Shatterstar (Lewis Tan) and regular guy Peter (Rob Delaney). Can the crew succeed in saving Firefist from Cable’s clutches?

The gut-busting “Deadpool 2” mines jokes from other films in the comic book genre, taking shots at the DC Extended Universe, Marvel Cinematic Universe and even X-Men films made by the same studio, Twentieth Century Fox. Nothing is off-limits for the self-aware superhero – Reynolds even pokes fun at himself. From spouting off vulgar jokes to performing physical comedy, Reynolds is right at home in Deadpool’s red-and-black garb.

“Deadpool 2” ups the ante on its exciting action and ultra-violence. Director David Leitch, who helmed “John Wick” and “Atomic Blonde,” brings his kinetic energy and style to the sequel’s memorable set pieces. With a bigger budget, the sequel expands past the freeway repeatedly used in the original. There’s bloody shootouts and brutal showdowns at a funeral, a school and a prison, with a jaw-dropping chase sequence that outdoes all of it. The breathless action keeps the film moving at a break-neck pace.

The sequel introduces new breakout characters and brings back fan favorites. As Cable, Brolin is fantastic as the hardened and relentless assassin, determined to get his target while gradually peeling back the tragic reasons for his mission. Beetz threatens to steal the movie as Domino, the strong, fierce and street-smart superhero whose lucky abilities are certainly cinematic. She confidently holds her own against the outrageous Reynolds.

Making a welcome return from the first film are X-Men characters Colossus (Stefan Kapicic) and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand). Colossus shares a special connection with Deadpool, hoping to steer the volatile superhero in a more positive direction. Negasonic Teenage Warhead is just as cool as she was in the original, but is sadly underused here. Speaking of familiar faces, keep an eye out for some fun cameos you won’t want to miss.

While “Deadpool 2” does a lot to improve upon the original, the film tries to take on too much and its storytelling suffers for it. With so many plotlines and characters, the sequel often feels all over the place.

Some central story threads aren’t developed enough, while some plot points don’t make sense. The sequel asks you to believe in the bond between Deadpool and Firefist, which the story fails to flesh out. The nature of their relationship often changes at the drop of a dime, which makes their relationship hard to buy, as well as the later actions of various characters.

“Deadpool 2” succeeds in giving fans of the original more of what they liked in the first one. While it doesn’t quite measure up to its predecessor, it’s a lot of fun and promises to set up more adventures for the Merc with a Mouth and his new friends.

3.5 out of 5 stars