Opening Friday, May 18

A sequel to the surprise 2016 blockbuster, Deadpool 2 is one of those rare follow-ups that improves upon the original, expanding its ideas instead of repeating them. If the first movie was a halfhearted R-rated Spider-Man (it was), then the new one is a controlled detonation of the superhero-movie template: filthy, funny, and cheerfully ultraviolent.

The Deadpool series stars Ryan Reynolds as a suicidal wiseass mercenary whose superpower is that he can’t be killed. He can be shot, stabbed, lacerated, suffocated, decapitated, eviscerated, mutilated, and incinerated, but he can’t actually die. Deadpool is also aware that he’s in a movie, which opens up another layer of meta comedy as he delivers a steady patter of fanboy in-jokes. (“You’re so dark,” he says to one villain. “Are you sure you’re not from the DC Universe?”)

Plot-wise, Deadpool 2 is ostensibly about the formation of the super group X-Force and its battle against the time-traveling cyborg Cable (Josh Bolin). But this movie isn’t about what it’s about. The talky script (cowritten by Reynolds) deploys plot elements only to serve the film’s more noble purpose of making us laugh.

Hundreds upon hundreds of gags crash down in a delirious cascade of dirty jokes and disposable pop culture. Jokes about LinkedIn and body cavities and Arby’s. Jokes about melanoma and strap-ons and dubstep. Jokes about Basic Instinct and Flashdance and Yentl. Jokes about Dave Matthews and Pat Benatar and Enya. At times, the script achieves the giddy density of peak TV comedies like 30 Rock; you’re afraid to laugh because three more punch lines will slip past.

Not all the jokes land, and the movie sometimes tries too hard to offend. For instance, I counted at least three jokes about pedophilia and sexual violence against kids. Really? We’re doing that now? For laughs? These aren’t throwaway lines, either; they’re graphic and directed specifically at a fourteen-year-old character played by a sixteen-year-old performer. Call me old-fashioned, but that’s fucked up.

On balance, though, Deadpool 2 is a seriously funny comedy and a genuinely good time at the movies. It’s fearless in a way that the first film only pretended to be. I laughed more at this superhero story than at any other multiplex comedy in recent memory. Avoid spoilers, watch for some great cameos, and hang around for the post-credits scenes.