Once Upon a Deadpool is an almost completely unprecedented experiment and quite possibly a trial balloon for how the Merc with a Mouth and his new corporate overlords at Disney might coexist. But, if you have already seen the R-Rated Deadpool 2 is there any real point in seeing Once Upon a Deadpool?
Of course there’s a PG-13 cut of Deadpool 2 playing in theaters right now featuring new footage of Ryan Reynolds’ favorite alter-ego force-feeding the plot of the film to a tied-up Fred Savage in a rough recreation of his Princess Bride bedroom. Why wouldn’t there be? That’s the perfect capper to Reynolds and 20th Century Fox’s year-long onslaught of Deadpool 2 meta-advertising, with many of the trailers and various marketing tie-ins being more purely funny than the actual film itself. We first saw Deadpool huffing paint in his Bob Ross get-up in November of 2017. 13 months later, he’s still flaunting convention, only obeying one real rule in this pop culture age of too much everything: never stay away long enough to let audiences forget you.
However, while all of this might make Once Upon a Deadpool inevitable, in retrospect, and even a little admirable for its total “fuck it” experimentation, that doesn’t make it worth even more of your money (although $1 of every ticket sold is going to the Fudge Cancer charity). It is in just about every way inferior to the original version of Deadpool 2. If not for the wrap-around sequences involving Fred Savage, Once Upon a Deadpool would just be like a theatrically-released version of one of those rare TV cuts of old R-rated movies where the director had to insert deleted scenes back into the movie to make up for everything else they had to cut to satisfy TV censors. In those old cases, sometimes the changes actually filled in a little more backstory or addressed a plot hole. Here, not so much.
Thankfully, though, this doesn’t also mean the curse words have been replaced with obvious dubbed laughers (no “melon farmer” for “mother fucker” here). For those Deadpool 2 instances which originally featured F-bombs, Once Upon a Deadpool appears to have simply recorded new, PG-13 dialogue, a feat made all the easier when your lead character’s face is almost always covered by a mask. In fact, many of the punchlines have changed even when they didn’t need to be. Reynolds and crew seem to have just wanted to change things up for the audience, sometimes for the better, other times for the worse (not all of the new alt-punchlines are funnier than what came before).
Except, they already did that on the Deadpool 2 Blu-Ray with the Super Duper Cut, a slightly longer, unrated version of the movie. Once Upon a Deadpool maintains many of the Super Duper Cut’s alt-punchlines, but obviously goes in a completely different direction on the rating. Landing a PG-13 means cutting certain entire scenes as well as censoring others – don’t expect to see any baby balls here.
Thus, it had been reported that there would be more of the entirely new Fred Savage scenes in the movie to help make up for everything which was getting cut out. However, as is usually true with Deadpool almost all of the best Fred Savage scenes have already been shared in the marketing. In fact, some of Savage’s best jokes from the commercials aren’t even in the movie.
Savage, who is more quick-witted and deliciously acerbic as an adult than he ever was a child, definitely makes for a great comedy duo with Deadpool, but other than to hang a lantern on everything people didn’t like about Deadpool 2 – yes, Savage mentions fridging – his running critical commentary offers surprisingly little. Once Upon a Deadpool is better off when it’s just the two of them talking to each other instead of them specifically discussing the plot of Deadpool 2.
And that’s what Once Upon a Deadpool ultimately is – a distilled version of Deadpool 2. Take away the Fred Savage exchanges, alternate punchlines, and reinserted deleted scenes, and you’re left with the same basic story of Wade, Cable, Domino, and, of course, Peter, aka, Sugar Bear. I went hoping to see something inspired in the actual new footage; I left mostly satisfied with the parts of Deadpool 2 which still really work, PG-13 or R-rated. Spoiler: RIP, X-Force.
THE BOTTOM LINE
if you have already seen Deadpool 2 and especially if you’ve already bought the Deadpool 2 Blu-Ray and watched the deleted scenes there’s no real reason to see Once Upon a Deadpool. But, my tween-aged nieces and nephews are dying to see it since they’ve never been allowed to see the other R-Rated Deadpool movies. That’s who Once Upon a Deadpool is best suited for. Otherwise, it’s an interesting editing experiment that would normally exist as just a Blu-Ray special feature watched by only the absolute die-hards.
There are 4 total, one which plays almost immediately, another which is just Deadpool 2′s original mid-credits montage, and another two which play back-to-back at the absolute end. The final one is actually a rather lovely Stan Lee tribute.