Once Upon a Deadpool
2018, PG-13, 119 min. Directed by David Leitch. Starring Ryan Reynolds, Fred Savage, Josh Brolin, Morena Baccarin, Julian Dennison, Zazie Beetz.
REVIEWED By Richard Whittaker, Fri., Dec. 14, 2018
Twas two weeks before Christmas,
And all through the house,
Only Deadpool was stirring,
Because he'd kidnapped Fred Savage, taped him to a chair, and was reading him edited, family-friendly highlights from Deadpool 2 à la The Princess Bride as a complicated fundraiser for the charity Fuck Cancer, which has renamed itself to Fudge Cancer because this is a PG-13 show, folks, and you can only use fuck so many times before the MPAA gets all bent out of shape.
Welcome to the film that may sum up the comedic genius of Ryan Reynolds more than any prior project: An elaborate meta-joke based around his unbelievably unlikely blockbuster superhero franchise as Deadpool, aka the merc with the mouth, aka Wade Wilson. Once Upon a Deadpool is about three-quarters of this year's Deadpool 2 trimmed down from its R rating to a PG-13 (so fewer f-bombs and less blood), but then filled back out to almost its original running time by the framing mechanism.
So we have the A-story (Wade's girlfriend Vanessa gets killed, Wade's sad, joins X-Men, Cable travels in time, Wade forms X-Force, Wade gets most of X-Force killed, Wade saves the horribly named Firefist – who really should have stayed as Russell – from Cable, happy ending, yadda yadda), and that's really rather fun, still. It undoubtedly feels edited, even with the addition of a few new short scenes and extra dialogue, and some of the paring down doesn't work especially well. After all, the extreme humor was built around it being an R-rated movie. But the reason this double-dip is more than a seasonal cash grab is because of that B-plot, with Reynolds as Deadpool and Fred Savage as Fred Savage riffing off each other. Plus there's a real pleasure in seeing exactly how far they can push that PG-13 envelope, especially considering how much of the film involves Deadpool getting blown up, torn in half, or wandering around pants-free with baby legs.
So what if it's a story we've seen already this year? It's still a blast, and with added Savage it manages to be a good-hearted cash-in that retains the original's mix of emotion and acerbic humor while providing a hilarious commentary on the film itself – from the way it fridged Vanessa (don't worry, Fred will explain what fridging is) to the ludicrous arbitrary nature of MPAA rulings. Still, it loses half a star for cutting that awesome Celine Dion-scored credit sequence. So say it with me: "Now, Cable! Now, Colossus! Now Negasonic Teenage Warhead and Yukio! On, Domino! On, Peter! On, Wade and Vanessa!"