Once Upon a Deadpool (United States, 2018)

December 12, 2018
A movie review by James Berardinelli
Once Upon a Deadpool Poster

Note: Once Upon a Deadpool is an edited version of the original Deadpool 2 with some scenes shortened/deleted and new material added.  In keeping with the spirit of the movie, this review of Once Upon a Deadpool is an edited version of the original review of Deadpool 2 with some passages shortened/deleted and new comments added.

Once Upon a Deadpool is as crass a cash-grab as one is likely to find, but at least the filmmakers/studio are upfront about their motivations. A re-edit of Deadpool 2, this movie cuts out some of the more objectionable material and uses framing narration to fill in the blanks. The new material is the only reason to see Once Upon a Deadpool for anyone who has seen Deadpool 2. A parody of the Peter Falk/Fred Savage scenes from The Princess Bride, this features Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) kidnapping an adult Fred Savage and confining him in a re-creation of his Princess Bride bedroom set. Inconceivable! Their dialogue is at times amusing and, on one occasion (a take-off on the “I’m f**king Matt Damon” bit from Jimmy Kimmel) downright hilarious, but it hardly justifies spending two hours in a theater.

The most compelling feature of the Deadpool movies has always been their raunchy, who-gives-a-shit attitude. Or, to put it another way, their biggest selling point has been their R-rated-ness. Admittedly, this is quite possibly the “hardest” PG-13 I have ever seen; nevertheless, some of that bawdy charm is gone. Oh, it’s still vulgar and Reynolds has fun with overdubbing and bleeping his f-bombs but, especially for anyone who has seen the unexpurgated Deadpool 2, this iteration feels watered-down.

For this sequel/re-edit, Reynolds and his creative team have applied a “more of the same” approach. Despite lacking the freshness of 2016 feature, the sequel is funny, energetic, and determined not to take itself seriously (even when serious things happen).  It sticks to the template established by Deadpool, so the fourth wall isn’t much of a barrier. The title character frequently addresses the audience, and the meta references come quickly and frequently. There are a few cameos – including one famous face whose inclusion is pointed out by Fred Savage during a break in the narration. (Savage also mentions that Deadpool isn’t a “real” Marvel movie character. Reynolds fires back that Disney bought Fox so now he is.)

In general, the action sequences are too long and overproduced. That’s generally true for comic book movies and explains in large part why these films have such large budgets. What’s different about this one is the soundtrack. When was the last time you saw a fight scene choreographed to “(The Sun’ll Come Out) Tomorrow”? There’s also room for “Take On Me”, “If I Could Turn Back Time”, “In Your Eyes”, and “All Out of Love.” So, although much of what goes on during the fights is generic, the music gives these lavishly gory slugfests a unique flavor. There are several mid-credits scenes and a moving tribute to Stan Lee at the very end. If you go in the first place, it’s worth staying a few extra minutes.

Ryan Reynolds is nothing if not committed and, as much as any high-profile actor working today, he’s aware of his foibles and willing to make fun of them. With Reynolds’ face hidden either by a mask or makeup, Deadpool’s charisma emerges from attitude rather than appearance. Also returning from the first film are Morena Baccarin as Vanessa, the love of Deadpool’s life; the X-Men pair of Colossus (Stefan Kapicic) and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand); Blind Al (Leslie Uggams), the woman least likely to be confused with Aunt May; and “sidekicks” Weasel (T.J. Miller) and Dopinder (Karan Soni). In addition to Josh Brolin (who plays the villain, Cable, and is called “Thanos” on one occasion), newcomers include Zazie Beetz (as Domino – no pizza product placement involved), Bill Skarsgard (without clown makeup), Terry Crews (not expendable), Julian Dennison, and a cameo to be named later.

The bottom line is that if you’ve seen Deadpool 2, the new Reynolds/Savage scenes don’t justify a return trip. The reconstructed storyline drags and its progression isn’t helped by the frequent interruptions. If you haven’t seen Deadpool 2, why even bother with this watered-down version? The supposed “target audience” (kids age 13-15) have probably seen the R-rated movie. I often refer to remakes/sequels as being “unnecessary” and this one truly is. Still, as an alternative version of Deadpool 2, Once Upon a Deadpool is more unfortunate than bad and, although Reynolds put some energy into giving it a new spin, his efforts aren’t sufficient to convince me that Deadpool may be close to wearing out his welcome and he should never be relegated to the neutered limbo of PG-13.

Once Upon a Deadpool (United States, 2018)

Run Time: 1:55
U.S. Release Date: 2018-12-12
MPAA Rating: "PG-13" (Violence, Profanity, Sexual Content, Drugs)
Genre: Action/Comedy
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1