The Pitch: In an ostensibly inspired move worthy of the meta-loving Merc with a Mouth, Fox has released a PG-13 cut of Deadpool 2, which we reviewed earlier this year. For the most part, Once Upon a Deadpool is just that – the tale of superpowered mercenary Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds), throwing himself into a madcap situation involving a troubled mutant teen with pyrokinetic powers (Julian Dennison) and the gritty cyborg Cable (Josh Brolin), who wants to slaughter the kid before he grows up to destroy the world.
This time, though, all the ‘f*ck’s and gore are cut down to a pleasing, family-friendly frequency, as evidenced by a framing device wherein Deadpool kidnaps Fred Savage (himself) and forces him to recreate the bedroom scenes from The Princess Bride.
Kiddie Pool: The idea of winkingly cutting down an entry in the notoriously sh*t-talking Deadpool series is Extremely On Brand for the character’s brand of self-referential humor, so Once Upon a Deadpool had a golden opportunity to really lean into the joke. It’s a shame, then, that they get mother*cking lazy with it: all the swears are either bleeped out or replaced with TV-edit-level ADR (“stuff” instead of “sh*t”, “freak” instead of “f*ck”), and most of the gorier moments are just muted or cut away from.
If the gag is that cleaning up a Deadpool movie is hilariously impossible, own that sh*t – replace the dirty words with goofy “mister falcon”-caliber phrases, or paste rainbows and kittens over all of Deadpool’s bone-bending injuries. That’s at least something; here, you’re just… pretty much watching Deadpool 2 again. There’s also a perfect opportunity for the film to make use of its one ratings-permitted f*ck, which is absolutely wasted.
Savage Love: If there’s any real entertainment value to be gleaned with Once Upon a Deadpool, it’s in the film’s aforementioned bookends with a captive Fred Savage. Believe it or not, Savage has remained a stalwart TV actor and director since his child-star years (you can thank him for a lot of what makes It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia great), and he bounces wonderfully off Reynolds’ Deadpool. Whether it’s in asides comparing Fox-produced Marvel flicks with Nickelback (“It’s music…but it sucks”) or refusing to entertain Wade’s request to ask him if it’s “a kissing book,” Savage’s cutaways are always a welcome respite from the wasted potential of the rest of the re-release.
Okay, But Does It Have Anything to Do With Christmas?: F*ck no!
The Verdict: Unless you’re really desperate to troll your grandparents with the annual Christmas family movie night, or if you’re just that dedicated to a half-baked metajoke (and if you’re a big enough fan of Deadpool, you will be), Once Upon a Deadpool doesn’t offer nearly enough new gags to justify its cheeky family-cut re-release. Sure, the bits they add are great – Fred Savage’s hostage situation with Deadpool should have been a cool third of the film – but in the end, it’s a retread as limp as one of Wade Wilson’s re-growing limbs.
There is a surprisingly sweet, heartfelt final post-credits scene that almost justifies the price of admission, but I imagine it (along with all the other Savage bits) will end up on YouTube soon enough anyway. In the meantime, just take Pop-Pop and Gam-Gam to see Mary Poppins Returns instead.
Where’s It Playing?: Everywhere nationwide, with $1 dollar of every ticket going to cancer research. So that’s awesome.