Foul-mouthed mutant mercenary Wade Wilson (AKA Deadpool), brings together a team of fellow mutant rogues to protect a young boy with supernatural abilities from the brutal, time-traveling cyborg, Cable. (from IMDb)
In a truly unusual move, Fox has not only re-released the R-rated superhero pseudo-spoof action comedy Deadpool 2 to theaters, but they've edited the crass and ultra-violent film down to pass as PG-13--just in time for the Christmas season. If you're at all familiar with my reviews and my personal approach to watching movies, you'll know I don't typically watch R-rated films unless they've been toned down, whether by a filtering service or from some other editing process. Currently, the best options for such editing are services ClearPlay and VidAngel (with the latter being sadly limited by movie houses that have legally blocked them from offering filters for their movies), but I haven't seen either of the Deadpool offerings... well, until now. Dubbed Once Upon a Deadpool, this re-cut of Deadpool 2 repackages Deadpool 2 for a wider audience, but doesn't revisit the first film at all. This re-cut opens with Deadpool having kidnapped actor/director Fred Savage (playing himself) and tied him (sans pants) to a bed in a room reconstructed, with almost perfect attention to detail, to look identical to his bedroom in 1987's The Princess Bride. While the two bicker about Savage being held hostage, the "Merc with a Mouth" opens a storybook and proceeds to tell the story of Deadpool 2 in a more sanitized fashion. Just like in the film version of The Princess Bride, things cut back and forth between Savage with Deadpool and the story of Deadpool 2--and it works! However, it seems everyone involved with the film--including the titular character--truly believes "everyone" saw the first Deadpool film from 2016. And while Savage admits he did not, Once Upon a Deadpool continues to operate as if the viewer did. There's never a recap of any events from the first film, and you just kind of have to piece together things about the characters from information you're given along the way via Deadpool 2. While I'm sure there isn't a ton lost in translation because of this, I still expected some kind of super quick summary or callback to the first film for those of us who had decided to pass on it for... obvious, aforementioned reasons.
I've liked Ryan Reynolds in the handful of films I've seen him in, and I've seen enough of the Deadpool character to get the feeling that these movies are rather fun, but in this film, I actually found his character one that I had to warm up to. Reynolds plays the character more like if Jim Carrey had played Tony Stark in a film directed by Kevin Smith. He's obnoxious and over the top, with the only thing the character seems to value being his girlfriend, Vanessa. And while sometimes characters who treat everything as a joke can be endearing, Deadpool really just isn't. And even with the editing for this version, it's clear how irreverent and vulgar Deadpool is, and no amount of editing can hide every mouthed "F" word, even if the altered dialog and overdubs are present to compensate. (According to IMDb, the "F" word count of the original Deadpool 2 sits just under 100.) All full uses of the "F" word are cut out of Once Upon a Deadpool, but there's a moment later in the film where Deadpool encourages another character to use the infamous profanity and says "Fuh... fuh..." a couple times to coach the character in saying it. And when they finally do, it's bleeped out. In the Fred Savage cut scenes, early on, there's a sequence where Savage is flipping out about his abduction and starts swearing, so Deadpool bleeps him with a handheld bleep button. He then bleeps himself to illustrate what they cannot say in a PG-13 movie. Later, there's a hilarious bit where Savage is saying he wants to "fight" a celebrity, but Deadpool unnecessarily bleeps him so it sounds so much worse. It's crass, but it does turn out to be a pretty funny gag. (Jimmy Kimmel has actually done this regularly on his late show, where he takes innocent dialog from movies and such and bleeps normal words out to make a phrase sound bad when it isn't at all.)
Having not seen the first film, and first experiencing Deadpool as a character through the PG-13 version of the sequel, watching Once Upon a Deadpool through that viewpoint gave me the feeling I was on the outside of an inside joke. Again, it took a good chunk of the movie to kind of get a feel for the tone of how the whole story was going to unfold, but it eventually got me on board before the end, even if it didn't totally win me over. I love Disney's animated film The Emperor's New Groove, and I could almost draw similarities between Kuzco and Deadpool... that is, if Kuzco cursed like a sailor and was a mutant anti-hero in an X-Men inspired plot. Deadpool's story is surrounded and influenced by more serious material, with him cracking jokes and making fun of everyone and everything along the way -- and breaking the fourth wall more than once, including signing a cereal box for a kid as "Ryan Reynolds" at one point. Cable is one of the most serious characters, being a man from the future who comes back to our present to kill a kid who would later grow up to be the man who kills his family. This kid, named Russell, is an overweight New Zealander who has a bad temper and can throw fire, and we soon find out he was abused at an orphanage (Deadpool even refers to those working at the orphanage as "pedophiles," hinting that even darker sins were being committed by these men. Deadpool also starts to merge a bit with the X-Men, with his main link to them being the all-metal giant, Colossus, who believes Deadpool could be a heroic asset. Then you have two random, lower tier X-Men, named Negasonic Teenage Warhead and Yukio who don't really do anything in the movie (well, until the end for all of about 7 seconds), but show up to nonsensically further push on moviegoers a popular Hollywood agenda that they're lesbians and are proud of it (Everything from cocky remarks to them holding hands, and them drinking out of "I'm with her" mugs that blatantly and clearly point to the other). Toss in the fact that Deadpool wants to die so badly at a couple points in the film, that he tries--unsuccessfully--to kill himself through various, ultra violent ways (including blowing himself to, quite literally, pieces), and you have a loaded mash of heavy and real themes and topics that Deadpool tries to make light of, but really serve as some pretty weighty content. It's an odd tonal construct that sometimes work, but definitely not always.
So, what's left in the PG-13 edit of the otherwise super vulgar and violent Deadpool 2? For the most part, it really does play out as one of those "hard PG-13" cuts. A handful of "S" words are still present, while quite a few uses of blasphemy (and blaspheming moments) also remain. There is no nudity in the film, but one of the weirdest scenes has to be when Deadpool's lower half is regenerating (just... take my word for it), and he's sitting on a couch with no pants or underwear on. Several people walk in--one after the other--and express their shock over the sight. We keep seeing him sitting there casually, but his nudity is either covered up by shadows (for this version, apparently), or by the kind of pixelated blurring often used for TV. It's entirely played for laughs, but it's just so bizarre that it's tough to know what to make of it. There is plenty of violence in the film, despite most of the graphic content is omitted through cutaways, but you still get the gist for what's going on. Because Deadpool regenerates and heals himself (and can't die), he's frequently getting hurt, with bloody results. In one scene, he puts his hand over a gun that fires a hole through the back of his hand. It's not shown in graphic detail in this version, but we do see the wound in several scenes later (but it's not focused on). At one point, a metal rod impales his masked head, and we see it sticking through the other side. When it's pulled out, we see slightly bloody holes on either side of his head for the rest of the film. In the scene where he's blown to bits, we see piece of his body fly at the screen, with the limbs (still in his suit) torn at the ends and a little blood along with them. Another scene involves a character literally being torn in half, and we see the frame cropped so their clothed torso is ripped with some blood on it and on the ground. As far as sexual content, it's mostly just some passionate kissing between Wade (out of his Deadpool suit) and Vanessa, and some crude comments made here and there throughout. During the after credits scene where Deadpool helps Fred Savage out of the bed he's tied to, he learns that he's been kidnapped for three days and has trouble walking, so we see his blurred out and pixelated bare butt, since he's not wearing pants. You really don't see anything explicit, but you get the idea.
For years, I've found myself enjoying nearly every Marvel film I've seen, to some degree. They certainly began with sincere growing pains (HULK, Daredevil, X-Men Origins: Wolverine), but really hit their stride once the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) launched. Twentieth Century Fox has long been producing X-Men related films--like this one--and I had been somewhat disappointed when I found that the Deadpool series and Logan were given the much more graphic and explicit treatments. Once Upon a Deadpool is a unique experiment that is quite entertaining, but definitely proves one thing for this moviegoing enthusiast: some movies just really aren't meant to be for everyone.
Side note: There are a lot of mid-credits scenes, and then a post-credits scene wrapping up the Fred Savage storyline. It's then immediately followed by a touching homage to Stan Lee, complete with bloopers for his cameo in Deadpool 2.- John DiBiase (reviewed: 12/20/18)
Disclaimer: All reviews are based solely on the opinions of the reviewer. Most reviews are rated on how the reviewer enjoyed the film overall, not exclusively on content. However, if the content really affects the reviewer's opinion and experience of the film, it will definitely affect the reviewer's overall rating.
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