Once Upon a Deadpool, 2018; written by Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick, & Ryan Roynolds. Directed by David Leitch; Starring Ryan Reynolds, Josh Brolin, Julian Dennison, Moran Baccarin, and Fred Savage
Just so we’re all on the same splash page, as there confusion about out there about this flick, let’s go over what exactly Once Upon a Deadpool is. It’s Deadpool 2, the Merc with a Mouth’s second screen adventure (second real screen adventure, X-men Origins doesn’t count). The film that came out earlier this year, between Infinity War and Solo. But now it’s a new cut with a new name. NOT, as many theater-goers seem to think – a new Christmas Deadpool movie.
How does one look at Once Upon a Deadpool? Weird experiment? Shameless cash grab? Fun way to raise cash for charity (Fudge Cancer)? Testing the waters of PG-13? All of the above? No matter how you look at it, Once Upon a Deadpool is unique, releasing a “don’t take your kids to this!” R-rated film, back into the theater the same year as original release claiming to be a “family” version. Let me state here, even cutting out the language and some of the blood, Deadpool is hardly a family film. But does it work, is it worth shelling out the cash to see a movie you already saw this year and can rent? (note: I’m all for going to see movies you have at home on the big screen, I love to do so through Fathom events or Central Cinema here in Seattle). Yes, and no.
How the story is now told is worth an admission price, yes. But I feel this should have been a cheaper price than a standard movie ticket. What’s that presentation you ask? Well, bub, let me tell ya. Deadpool, alias Wade Wilson, loves The Princess Bride as much as the rest of us (that is to say, he can quote it from beginning to end); and to share that love along with the PG-13 cut of film he’s kidnapped Fred Savage. In a recreation of the bedroom set, Red plays Peter Falk and reads the bound Savage the movie with certain bits cut out. There are interspersed bits of Wade and Fred bickering and talking about the movie.
These interactions are the best parts of the new movie, and worth some portion of your ticket price. It’s been said they total about 18 minutes, but it doesn’t feel like it in the film itself. Hell, I think the entire third act plays out without interruption. I don’t know if it is due to seeing the film previously and these segments being new or not, but I laughed harder that these than the film proper. Also good in use of calling out bad writing and the fridging of Vanessa, among other things (lampshading a lampshade, 4th wall Lampshading!)
How do the in-film changes stack up? More than anything, cutting out the language cuts Deadpool’s quips and commentary rather than direct interactions. This creates an odd quiet where one expects some joke or quip. Instead, moments happen and have an odd pause where there would be something. Think of watching a live comedy play with a silent audience. Pause for laugh… and *crickets*, except there is no joke delivered to fall flat. In addition, some full lines and bits are cut. It’s obvious when this happens as there is little done to mask a second was cut from the film. It’s rather jarring. This creates an odd flow; starting and stopping rather than a steady stream. Parts I remember laughing with and enjoying six months ago now didn’t land.
It’s worth noting, I wasn’t the biggest fan of Deadpool 2 the first time around. Like many comedy sequels I thought it tried too hard to replicate the original, over-doing the parts people reacted to the first time around. As a result of continually shifting objectives (found how to kill yourself, become an X-person, get out of prison, etc), it felt disjointed storywise. Side characters come and go, and some parts just feel repetitive. I had a good time; but it paled in comparison to the wonderful first film. In a few ways, it was the film the original satirized.
I’ll be honest, I was let down with the PG-13 cut. We lost a lot, the aforementioned curses and gore, but nothing in-film was added. In fact, at least one full scene I can remember was cut – the film no longer opens in media res. During one of the sketch scenes it’s established Deadpool has a “bleeper” to keep him and Fred in check. It would have been great to have that in the film itself, or painfully obvious edits to the dialog as if we were watching Die Hard 2 on TBS. Feels like a missed opportunity. You’ve given us the concept, now lean into it.
Like The Devil and Father Amorth (weird connection I know, hey, review), Once Upon a Deadpool is a glorified Blu-Ray extra presented as it’s own thing. Wait for next edition of the disc and watch the Fred Savage scenes on their own instead.
Deadpool 2: C+; Once Upon a Deadpool: C
Once Upon a Deadpool plays in theaters until Dec 24; a dollar of each ticket will go to Fuck Cancer charity.