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Movie Review

I suspect the makers of Deadpool 2 are big Plugged In readers.

I don't mean big readers, mind you. (I could stand to lose a few pounds myself.) And I'm sure that whatever the actual girth or heft of Deadpool's brain trust may be, they're all beautiful in their own special ways.

But sometimes, I do wonder—

[Record scratch]

OK, if that sounds familiar, it’s because I grabbed it from my Deadpool 2 review. Why? Have I become incredibly lazy? Well, yes. But there’s another reason: Once Upon a Deadpool is an edited, PG-13 version of Deadpool 2. And I figure if Deadpool’s makers can plagiarize themselves, why not me? What follows is, essentially, a review that takes its cues from a traditional wedding: something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue. (That'd be the profanity section, naturally.)

True, Once Upon a Deadpool is not exactly identical to its predecessor. For one thing, it's added several scenes of Deadpool (the hero) reading a book version of Deadpool 2 to Fred Savage, à la The Princess Bride. And, of course, being a PG-13 flick, the movie's cleaner: Not cleaner in a “safe for the whole family” sort of way, but just clean enough to squeak by with a PG-13 rating, if you’re grading on a curve.

But we’ll get to that. For now, let’s return to the review already in progress:

—unveils its first spoiler before the title sequence even begins. Avoiding spoilers makes this introduction read a little like a Mad Libs exercise:

Deadpool is back, suffering from the (noun) of his (noun) but unable to (verb). He realizes that his way to (noun) may lie in saving Russell, a troubled mutant who (verb) in his (noun) and just might be (adjective). But Cable, a time-traveling (noun), wants to kill Russell before he (verb) his (noun) and unleashes his (noun) that terrible (noun). In order to protect Russell, Deadpool gathers a team of (adjective) (noun) and (noun) into the fray, with (adjective) results for (noun). And be sure to look for surprising cameos from (noun) and (noun)!

And Fred Savage!

Positive Elements

Deadpool is as anti- an antihero as they come, so much so that Marvel could've legitimately renamed him Anti-Man.

But for all Deadpool's many, many faults, he is still a hero here. So when Deadpool himself insists (through a fourth-wall-breaking bit of narration) that Once Upon a Deadpool is a family film, he's not wholly wrong. He fosters a strange, superpowered family here, filled admittedly with its share of foibles but with some welcome love and support as well.

And what family would be complete without a potential prodigal son? That son is Russell, a 14-year-old kid who, due to years and years of abuse, has some anger-management issues. That's troubling enough, but it's particularly bothersome when one considers that Russell can generate fire from his fists, turning him into one seriously frightening pyromaniac.

But Deadpool's not ready to give up on the lad, despite all of Russell's obvious problems. He wants to save the boy—not just from Cable, but from himself. And he's willing to go to some incredible lengths to protect the teen and show him a better way. "No child is hopeless," he says.

That theme of redemption runs throughout the film. After all, Deadpool's looking for his own measure of redemption, too, trying to prove to his straight-arrow X-Man pal Colossus that he's not as juvenile and irresponsible as he sometimes seems to be. Deadpool finds others who seem to care for him, too, people who risk their lives and sacrifice their free time to partner with the "Merc with a Mouth" on his worthwhile mission.

Toward the end of the film, you could argue that Deadpool turns into a (very twisted) salvific Christ-like figure, one who finds reasons to live in the people around him, even as he sacrifices his all for those folks.

Spiritual Content

'Course, those spiritual allusions aren't lost on Deadpool or his writers. He explicitly compares himself to both Jesus and God. "The Lord works in mysterious ways, don't I?" he says. At another juncture, he declares that he's been anointed by a "higher power," and someone in earshot of his monologue asks, "Did he just call himself Jesus?" Indeed, the film delights in making irreverent nods toward faith and Christianity.

Deadpool calls metal-clad Colossus "Shiny Jesus." Blind Al, a friend of Deadpool's, gets tired of listening to Deadpool's constant prattling and says she wishes that God would've taken her hearing, too. Weasel, another Deadpool friend, owns a bar, and we see a glowing Christian cross inside it—again, perhaps, a winking aside to Deadpool's turn as a Christlike figure here.

In another fourth-wall-breaking sequence, Deadpool even reminds everyone that his first movie trumped The Passion of the Christ as the highest-grossing R-rated movie in history … at least overseas, where "there's no such thing as religion" anymore. Some scenes suggest that Deadpool's destined for a happy afterlife. "Is this heaven?" he asks someone who preceded him there.

The movie's focus on religion takes a much darker tone when it turns its attention to a sadistic headmaster who's in charge of "reforming" mutant children. We learn that he abused and tortured his charges, treating their mutancy as a sin and whispering in their ears, "Blessed are the wicked," those who would be cleansed or cured by "my hand." He later calls one of his old pupils an "abomination," tells the story’s heroes that they are beyond redemption and proclaims that a “day of reckoning” is here (which proves to be ironically true).

Sexual Content

The headmaster and most of the institution's employees are repeatedly referred to as "a bunch of pedophiles," and in flashback we see the headmaster come uncomfortably close to Russell to whisper a message in his ear.

Once Upon a Deadpool, like Deadpool 2, includes an explicitly gay character: Negasonic Teenage Warhead. She now has a girlfriend, fellow mutant Yukio. (We see the two of them wrap their arms affectionately around one another's shoulders.)

In the comics, the sexual inclinations of Deadpool himself can be a bit freeform, and his sexual fluidity is given a wink and giggle here. When Colossus picks an injured Deadpool up off the ground, the movie constructs it as a quasi-romantic sequence, complete with tender gazes, coquettish strokes of the hand and a love song playing in the background. Deadpool seems to make occasional (albeit joking) passes at other male characters too (squeezing the backside of one), and a male cabbie sometimes expresses an uncomfortable attachment to Deadpool as well.

Deadpool's heart, though, belongs to girlfriend Vanessa. She orders him a couple of times to "kiss me like you miss me," and so he does. She gives him her pregnancy control device as an anniversary present (indicative that she's ready to have children with him), and Deadpool suggests they get in the mood for baby-making by watching a little porn together. (But later, when the camera returns, they're absorbed in the old Barbra Streisand movie Yentl.)

Deadpool's primary superpower is his body's ability to regenerate even after the worst injuries. So when he's literally torn in half (more on that, um, below), he recuperates by regrowing his lower body. We see his recovery in process: He refuses to cover up, so we see his bare, childlike legs, while pixilation hides sensitive areas (both front and rear). The characters themselves get more of an eyeful, naturally, and there's much banter about his exposed anatomy (and how he should really cover up). During the credits, Fred Savage gets out of bed without any pants on, and his bare rear and genitals are likewise pixelated.

A member of Deadpool's fledging superhero group X-Force pines for another member's phone number. We hear crude references to encounters in airport bathrooms; gags involving virginity, oral sex, "tea bagging," pedophilia, incest; and allusions to various body parts and sexual acts. We hear a running joke about Russell using his "prison wallet" (his buttocks) as a place to store something. Cleavage is bared.

Violent Content

Someone shoves an electrical cable up a bad guy’s rear (though not nearly as explicitly here as it was depicted in Deadpool 2) while others push him into a pool to be electrocuted.

As mentioned, Deadpool is literally torn in half. This scene, too, has been toned down from the original: Instead of organs dangling, we simply see Deadpool simply touch his legs, which are resting above his head. He also attempts to blow himself up: We see body parts fly in the air, but bloodlessly so. (A severed hand with an extended middle finger is glimpsed ever so briefly.) Deadpool's shot dozens of times, too. And despite his superpower, he indeed faces actual, literal death, thanks to a special collar that mysteriously negates mutant abilities. (When he wears the collar for an extended period of time, his stage 4 cancer returns with a vengeance as well, and he nearly expires from the disease.)

Other folks die in a variety of ways. Someone gets sucked into a shredder. Another fellow has part of his body dissolved by acid. Still another flies into some power lines, electrocuting him. People are hit by moving vehicles, which kills them quickly. Most of these and the other deaths we see are remarkably bloodless (especially considering the volume of crimson splashed in Deadpool 2), but the movie does make an exception for Shatterstar, an extraterrestrial member of X-Force: He flies into a helicopter blade, and his green blood coats the craft's windows.

Russell can set things on fire with his hands, and he repeatedly expresses a desire to burn his old headmaster alive. It's suggested that he could develop a taste for killing and become a horrifically savage, unstoppable murdering machine: In a future timeline, we see a pair of his victims shortly before they’re immolated. (Deadpool 2 featured footage of their charred bodies.)

Once Upon a Deadpool has throttled down the blood and gore of Deadpool 2, but it's done little to stem the tide of unremitting, frenetic violence. Dozens upon dozens of people are shot and killed or stabbed and killed. More suffer car crashes (in some seriously unsafe driving conditions) and presumably die. Folks get in nonlethal fights, too, melees filled with punches and kicks and blows to the groin. Someone expresses his desire to be a "contract killer." Deadpool has apparently kidnapped Fred Savage and has tied him to the Princess Bride bed: He insinuates that he has a bevy of other celebs tied up in the basement, too.

Crude or Profane Language

Whereas Deadpool 2 sported more than 90 f-words, Once Upon a Deadpool pares it down to … one? Maybe? But don't get too excited: Deadpool totes along his own profanity beeper to censor lots of others. In addition, when Fred Savage embarks on a long monologue about how much he'd like to fight Matt Damon, Deadpool bleeps the word fight repeatedly, leaving only the f sound and making the monologue sound much dirtier than it otherwise would be.

We still hear about 20 s-words (down from 35 or so in Deadpool 2), along with multiple uses of "a--," "b--ch," "d--n," "h---," "p-ss," "p---ies" and "d--k." God's name is misused 13 times (three of those with "d--n"), Jesus' name is abused 10 times, and characters make several obscene gestures.

Drug and Alcohol Content

Deadpool smokes cigarettes. He and others drink various forms of liquor, and a couple of scenes take place in Weasel's bar.

Other Negative Elements

We're introduced to a white character named Black Tom who's prone to cultural appropriation and whose very presence becomes a running joke.

We hear indelicate jokes involving bathroom habits. And other gross-out humor still flows freely throughout. And, naturally, Deadpool's inherently disrespectful and rude at times.

Conclusion

You have to hand it to the makers of Deadpool: They know how to game the MPAA ratings system.

When the original Deadpool rolled out in 2016, its creators played up its R-rating—an absolute necessity for this NSFW comic character, we were told. It rode all the attention like a shiny unicorn to box-office Nirvana, becoming one of the most successful R-rated movies ever.

Deadpool 2 was also wildly successful—though not, perhaps, as wildly successful as the first. Sure, it made another $318.5 million stateside, but that's less than half of what the PG-13-rated Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War did. And, perhaps, there's a sense that Disney, which is in the process of acquiring 20th Century Fox (the theatrical stable in which Deadpool resides and a transaction that Deadpool himself cheekily references), might not be so keen in muddying its cherished Marvel brand with an f-word-spewing "hero."

So now—just in time for Christmas break—Fox unveils a PG-13 version of Deadpool 2. Featuring, as you recall, a character for whom an R rating was an absolute necessity.

Turns out, that was a lie. Much of the first movie's wit made it through the PG-13 cut unscathed, suggesting what I've been saying for years: Problematic content is rarely needed to make an entertaining movie.

But while Once Upon a Deadpool may have snagged a family-friendlier rating, it squeaked through on technicalities.

The gore has been toned down, but the violence is all there. Sexual innuendo and allusions are everywhere. And while Once Upon a Time took out a ton of f-words, it actually added a ton of suggested f-words, making the language, in some ways, feel even dirtier than before.

Once Upon a Deadpool talks about how "family" isn't the f-word that Deadpool once thought it was. And that's sweet. Alas, this revisionist recut still gets a family-friendly F.

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

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Profanity/Violence

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

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Episode Reviews

Credits

Rating

Readability Age Range

Author

Cast

Ryan Reynolds as Wade/Deadpool; Josh Brolin as Nathan Summers/Cable; Morena Baccarin as Vanessa; Julian Dennison as Russell; T.J. Miller as Weasel; Stefan Kapicic as Colossus (voice); Brianna Hildebrand as Negasonic Teenage Warhead; Zazie Beetz as Domino; Bill Skarsgård as Zeitgeist; Terry Crews as Bedlam; Lewis Tan as Shatterstar; Rob Delaney as Peter; Eddie Marsan as the schoolmaster; Leslie Uggams as Blind Al; Fred Savage as Fred Savage

Director

David Leitch ( )

Distributor

20th Century Fox

Network

Performance

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Platform

Publisher

In Theaters

December 12, 2018

On Video

January 16, 2019

Year Published

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Content Caution

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