once upon a deadpool review

Once Upon a Deadpool hopes to be a Deadpool for a wider audience during the holiday season, featuring a heavily edited PG-13 version of Deadpool 2. But is there anyone even slightly interested in such an idea? Even with the bonus incentive of a portion of the proceeds going to charity, this last-minute cash-grab fails to justify its existence.

Have you seen Deadpool 2? What about the deleted scenes included on the Blu-ray release of that film – have you seen those as well? If so, congratulations! You’ve already seen Once Upon a Deadpool. Now you don’t have to go to the theater. Do something useful with your time instead, like push-ups, or staring blankly into space for two hours.

In a masterstroke of more money making, the powers-that-be at Fox have decided to re-release Deadpool 2 in a truncated PG-13 format, now titled Once Upon a Deadpool. While this plan will enable a wider audience to clap eyes on the sequel, Deadpool’s entire schtick is that he’s an R-rated superhero – free to spew vulgarities and blow off heads while spouting meta dialogue. So what’s the point? To be fair, this re-release is being accompanied by a good cause: for every ticket sold, $1 will go to the nonprofit charity Fuck Cancer, dedicated to “prevention, early detection and providing emotional support and guidance to those affected by cancer.” That’s commendable – but couldn’t such a plan be attached to a more worthwhile filmgoing experience?

The fact of the matter is, there’s no reason for Once Upon a Deadpool to exist. A PG-13 rating does not make Deadpool 2 funnier – not even in a silly, knowing way. In fact, it makes the movie worse – and I say that as someone who mostly enjoyed Deadpool 2. Plot-wise, Once Upon a Deadpool is exactly the same as Deadpool 2: Deadpool’s lady love Vanessa (Morena Baccarin) is killed, sending the Merc with a Mouth into a spiral of depression. In the midst of all this, time-traveling robo-soldier Cable (Josh Brolin) arrives from the future, intent on murdering a young mutant named Russell (Julian Dennison) who will eventually grow up to kill Cable’s family. Along the way, Deadpool grows into a protector for Russell. He also teams up with the ass-kicking, very lucky Domino (a scene-stealing Zazie Beetz). Nothing new to see here, folks! Some deleted scenes from the film – mostly early scenes in which Deadpool tries to kill himself in various ways – have been edited back into the movie, in an attempt to make the proceedings slightly more fresh. You’ll barely notice them.

Once Upon a Deadpool attempts to justify itself with a somewhat clever framing device. Ryan Reynolds‘ Deadpool has kidnapped (or performed some “unsolicited location enhancement”, as Deadpool calls it) actor Fred Savage, and imprisoned him to an exact replica of the bedroom set from The Princess Bride. There, Deadpool – for reasons unexplained – proceeds to read the “King James” version of Deadpool 2, forcing Savage to recreate his Princess Bride role in the process. Deadpool also takes the time to explain to Savage that the abducted actor is in a PG-13 movie – “The only F-bombs we’re using is Fred Savage,” Deadpool says, adding: “We’re PG-13, so we only get 2 shits, 1 fuck and a glass of white wine.” To keep things firmly PG-13, Deadpool has a device that enables him to bleep out the vulgarity in that sentence.

once upon a deadpool movie

All of this is mildly amusing, and Reynolds and Savage have surprisingly great comic chemistry together – several of their rapid-fire back-and-forth arguments will have you hoping for Savage to start taking on more prominent comedic movie roles. Throughout the film, we cut back to Deadpool and Savage, commenting on the film. This mostly takes the form of poking fun at Deadpool 2 (“I can’t believe you ‘fridged’ Vanessa!” Savage cuts in near the beginning). Eventually these interjections die down, allowing most of the Deadpool 2 story to unfold uninterrupted. At this point, you’ll probably start checking your watch – despite being an edited version of Deadpool 2Once Upon a Deadpool still runs over 2 hours.

As for the PG-13 version of Deadpool 2, the narrative may be the same, but the execution is severely lacking. To enable the PG-13 rating, nearly all of the vulgarity has been removed. There’s nothing that says a comedy has to be R-rated and foul-mouthed to be funny, but the problem here is that Deadpool 2 was shot to be rated R, meaning Reynolds and company have to perform awkward, clunky ADR to over-dub curse words. For moments using this workaround is impossible, lines cut off abruptly (for instance, someone yelling “Motherfucker!” in the R-rated cut is now heard proclaiming “Mother–!” here). It’s like watching an R-rated film clumsily edited for network TV. The same editing problem hampers the violence, where almost all the blood has been removed, and other shots have been excised completely. The now-infamous X-Force sequence – perhaps the best scene in the entire film – has been trimmed down significantly, robbing the scene of its brutally funny impact.

Just who the hell is Once Upon a Deadpool for? Fans of the character will likely prefer the R-rated cut. Even younger audiences have likely already seen the R version by now – let’s be honest, in the entire history of the MPAA, an R-rating has never effectively stopped a young movie-watcher. On top of all this, Deadpool 2 lovers have likely already watched the picture multiple times thanks to its home video release, rendering this re-cut, which only has about 20 minutes of new footage, a repetitive, boring slog. The only worthwhile element associated with Once Upon a Deadpool is its pledge to donate money to Fuck Cancer. If the box office haul ends up helping that charity significantly, maybe Once Upon a Deadpool won’t be a total waste of time.

/Film Rating: 5 out of 10

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About the Author

Chris Evangelista is a staff writer for /Film. He's contributed to CutPrintFilm, RogerEbert.com, Nerdist, Mashable, and more. Follow him on Twitter @cevangelista413 or email him at chris@chrisevangelista.net