Everyone’s favorite ‘Merc with a Mouth’ is back in theaters after a two-year wait with “Deadpool 2,” the first sequel to 2016’s outrageously fun and profane “X-Men” spin-off, “Deadpool.”

Just as the film’s marketing promises, “Deadpool 2” is certainly bigger than its predecessor. It’s got more stars in its cast, more explosions, more body parts being hacked off and a lot more irreverence.

Does the film suffer from bloat due to a maniacal effort by the screenwriters to fit in a pop culture reference, in-joke, or fourth-wall break in every other line? Mayyyybe, but who cares?

The over-the-top, ‘90s sequel, more-is-more approach is exactly what most fans of the character expect, so in that respect, this self-aware sequel should be considered a complete success.

What’s it about?

There are far too many elements to “Deadpool 2” that, if included in a synopsis here, would merit being called “spoilers,” so we’ll stick to what’s in the trailers.

In addition to the return of Ryan Reynolds as Wade Wilson/Deadpool and most of the favorite characters from the original film, “Deadpool 2” introduces a slew of fan-favorite characters from the comic books, most notably the time-traveling, gun-toting, gravelly-voiced Cable, played by Josh Brolin.

Wilson and Cable find themselves at odds over the fate of a young mutant named Russell (Julian Dennison). To fight his new antagonist, Mister Pool does what other heroes do in bigger, more expensive sequels: He puts together his own team, comprised of Domino (Zazie Beetz, very cool), Bedlam (Terry Crews), Shatterstar (Lewis Tan), Zeitgeist (Bill Skarsgård) and Peter (Rob Delaney).

From there, mayhem ensues -- just as one might expect -- but rest assured, True Believers: There are plenty of surprises left in the film, many of them the uproariously hilarious kind.

Self-aware from start to finish

For those who don’t know, Deadpool in the comics is clinically insane. The psychosis manifests itself with Wilson continually talking to his own internal monologues and the reader – he knows he’s a fictional character, and he has lots of fun with that, almost as much fun as he does with dismembering people.

The first “Deadpool” film embraced (in every sense of the term) all of these qualities, and the sequel takes that inappropriate embrace to the next level.

You think “Ready Player One” was packed with obscure allusions and references? You practically need annotations or liner notes to keep up with every in-joke and gag in “Deadpool 2.” Think the first film was bloody? “Deadpool 2” is gratuitously, gleefully unrestrained in its violence, brought to life visually this time by director David Leitch (“John Wick”, “Atomic Blonde”) and paired with a soundtrack featuring songs by Celine Dion, Air Supply, LL Cool J and Berlin.

Is it all absurdly over the top? Of course it is – “Deadpool” was the first time out, so the sequel has to be more so this time, or so Wilson believes, and regardless of who’s credited as the director of the film, make no mistake: It’s Wilson who’s in charge.

(Reviewer’s note: I had to write that or he threatened to hug me again. That may not sound so bad, but trust me, it’s very uncomfortable.)

(He’s so lying. I’m already hugging him, and do you hear any more complaints? Noooo. -DP)

Too much of a good thing?

At almost two hours in length, “Deadpool 2” struggles at times to maintain its narrative momentum. There are just so many gags to make room for, and that eventually takes a toll on pacing.

For some audiences, this may not be an issue at all – if you’re laughing to the point of tears at every quip and sight gag, then you may not care that the film’s tension is lagging or its dynamic energy flagging.

For others, however, this will prove the difference in viewing experiences between the first and second films. The first film was remarkably balanced in terms of its thrill ride and gag elements. Here, there’s a deliberate effort to not be balanced, and that probably won’t work for everyone.

Worth seeing?

The original “Deadpool” was 2016’s ninth-highest-grossing film, breaking box office records for R-rated films and for the X-Men film franchise. Wilson’s fans are legion, and if you count yourself among them, you’re already committed to seeing the sequel on opening weekend.

(Hehe “Legion” -- get it? See, that’s another mutant character who has his own show now. Ahem, sorry.)

(Wow. That was terrible. Just finish your hack job of my masterpiece and leave the in-jokes to me, ok Four-Eyes? Great. Hugs n’ sloppy kisses. -DP)

For casual movie-goers who aren’t over the moon for the genre but enjoy a good action fest -- and don’t mind potty-mouthed dialogue -- there’s plenty to enjoy here, too. Just be sure, as you did for “Avengers: Infinity War,” to bring your best comic book aficionado pal with you to help explain any references you don’t get.

Oh, and stay through the credits for this one. That should go without saying for comic book films, but this time, Wilson will make it worth your while.

(No, not that way. Get your head out of the gutter … Well, unless, you, you know, want me to. -DP)

Deadpool 2

Starring Ryan Reynolds, Josh Brolin, Morena Baccarin, Julian Dennison, Zazie Beetz, T.J. Miller, Brianna Hildebrand, Jack Kesy. Directed by David Leitch.
Running time 119 minutes.
Rated R for strong violence and language throughout, sexual references and brief drug material.

Deadpool 2 movie poster