Many have already argued that Deadpool is a character who simply cannot work in a PG-13 format. As Disney readies to complete their purchase of Fox and regain the Marvel property, such a worry has been at the forefront of many fans' minds. While the character is certainly not cut out for a non-violent, safe-for-work-language type of film, Once Upon A Deadpool made the more family-friendly version of the character worth watching -- if only just this once.
The premise is simple: It's Deadpool 2 with some changes here and there, supplemented by Deadpool's narrative to a captive Wonder Years star Fred Savage in a Princess Bride bedroom. The cutting between certain sequences of Deadpool 2 back to the newly shot bedroom set allow for some R-rated portions to be altered or removed entirely. However, the changes favorably show off some true comedic chops from both Deadpool star Ryan Reynolds and Savage. In fact, the movie could have benefited from a few more moments between Reynolds and Savage; a Blu-ray release will almost certainly include such in the bonus features.
Fox didn't hold back with their new jokes, either. Gags such as using censorship at the wrong time present some suggestive new jokes in true Deadpool fashion that toe the line between raunchy comedy and clean, easy humor impressively. The true ab workout comes when Fox allows its own property to mock the studio's history of X-Men movies, their differences from Marvel Studios, and their impending wearing of mouse ears.
While most of the film is a verbatim, minus bad words, cut of Deadpool 2, there are some scenes completely removed which are then replaced with entirely different deleted scenes. It helps that the production of Deadpool 2 called for an abundance of improvised takes, which are used this time around to provide some fresh laughs. Plus, Reynolds' Deadpool wears a mask, so dubbing over his original dialogue is a simple and mostly well-executed feat.
In taking out the brutal violence and extra language, Once Upon A Deadpool did also remove some significant touches of nuance. Some scenes merely dropped the computerized blood spatter, which had no effect on the edit's pacing. However, when certain bits have to be removed in their entirety, Deadpool 2 plays with clear gaps. The feeling spawns partially from having experienced the proper Deadpool 2 film once around, but also comes from editors on Once Upon simply doing the best they can without being able to add new footage to old scenes.
In the end, a PG-13 rating certainly does limit what Deadpool can do or say. This was always obvious. However, Once Upon A Deadpool capitalizes on the fact that the audience demands an R-rating being common knowledge and uses this to its advantage several times over. Deadpool's fourth wall-breaking ability sets up easy jokes about the neutered nature of Once Upon's language and bloodshed, mocking the new style in truly entertaining fashion. It is fun for this one-off re-release, but it certainly shouldn't be the character's future.
In the end, Once Upon A Deadpool is worth watching, but doesn't reinvent the sequel or character. It's an entertaining outing which younger fans can enjoy if they're allowed to watch most of what's already on television and adults will enjoy it for its slew of new jokes and ever-abundant pop culture references.
Rating: 4 out of 5