Review: Once Upon a Deadpool Tones Down The Snark and Violence…A Little

I’m sure many of you rolled your eyes so far back in your head they almost got stuck there the first time you heard that the makers of Deadpool 2 were making a PG-13-rated version of it for the holiday season. I happened to think the R-rated version of Deadpool 2 was a pretty terrific little movie, with stand-out performances by Zazie Beetz as the luck-powered Domino and Josh Brolin as the time-traveling cyborg Cable. He borrows from the plot of The Terminator to go back in time to kill a young kid named Russell (Julian Dennison) whose powers are just manifesting, but he will eventually kill many in the future, including Cable’s family.

Image courtesy of 20th Century Fox

So Once Upon a Deadpool is pretty much exactly the same movie, minus the vulgarities (although most of the fairly graphic innuendo remains intact) and blood-soaked violence, and inserting a few deleted scenes from the extended-cut home video release, a couple alternate jokes, and a wrap-around framing device that finds our antihero (Ryan Reynolds) reading the Deadpool 2 story to a tied-down Fred Savage (essentially reprising his role in The Princess Bride, complete with the re-created bedroom set). Every so often during the film, we cut back to Deadpool and Savage, and their exchanges are legitimately funny (most of the time). And I’ll admit, I didn’t miss the R-rated humor as much as I thought I would.

Admittedly, the history of studios doing multiple versions of the same movie is spotty—from the alternate-joke version of Anchorman 2, which took the PG-13 original version and made it R rated; to the PG-rated Saturday Night Fever, which basically reduced the gritty, sexually explicit R-rated film into a pure dance film, safe for teenagers. And Once Upon a Deadpool is hardly a different film at all. Still, it was nice to be reminded about some of the movie’s funny, mind-bending touches, including a really clever series of mid-credits scenes in which Deadpool travels through time to correct certain “mistakes” in his X-Men timeline.

I should mention, this film also has a post-credits tribute to the ever-present Stan Lee that is genuinely sweet, funny and pretty much worth the price of admission.I still love the way Deadpool exists around the outskirts of the X-Men, with characters like Colossus and Brianna Hildebrand’s Negasonic Teenage Warhead (and her girlfriend, the infectiously cheery Yukio) linking us most directly to the team; there’s also the formation of the new mutant team X-Force, only to have them…well, it still feels like a spoiler; the introduction of classic X-Men villain Juggernaut; and even the deviant presence of Eddie Marsan’s Headmaster at the orphanage for mutant children. This Deadpool movie has more heart and heartbreak, a surer handle on its storytelling, and a clearer sense of how breaking the fourth wall can be used to comic effect. It isn’t necessarily worth the ticket price to see it again in theaters, but to die-hards and completists, it’s still a tremendous amount of fun.

The film is now in theaters through December 24. One dollar of every ticket sold in the U.S. during the run will be donated to Fudge Cancer (a nonprofit organization which raises awareness and provides education about early cancer detection and prevention), the name of which has temporarily changed from its usual F—- Cancer.

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Steve Prokopy

Steve Prokopy is chief film critic for the Chicago-based arts outlet
Third Coast Review. For nearly 20 years, he was the Chicago editor for
Ain’t It Cool News, where he contributed film reviews and
filmmaker/actor interviews under the name “Capone.” Currently, he’s a
frequent contributor at /Film ( and Backstory Magazine.
He is also the public relations director for Chicago's independently
owned Music Box Theatre, and holds the position of Vice President for
the Chicago Film Critics Association. In addition, he is a programmer
for the Chicago Critics Film Festival, which has been one of the
city's most anticipated festivals since 2013.

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