Deadpool kills with PG-13 “family film”

By Parker Otto, Columnist

Just in time for the holiday season, another Christmas film has been released featuring the man in red himself, Deadpool. “Once Upon a Deadpool,” released Dec. 14, is essentially a PG-13 recut of the R-rated film “Deadpool 2,” which was released May 18 and grossed 738 million dollars, according to Box Office Mojo, becoming the seventh highest grossing film of 2018. The film was also made for a good cause with one dollar from every ticket sold going to the charity F–k Cancer. While “Once Upon a Deadpool” may not be as strong as the original, it provides new material and valuable scenes that make it an enjoyable film.

The film follows the Merc with the Mouth, Deadpool, played by Ryan Reynolds, who has kidnapped beloved 1980s child star Fred Savage, tied him to a bed in the bedroom set from “The Princess Bride” and reads to Savage the plot of “Deadpool 2” which has been cut down to PG-13 for “childlike innocence.”

The overall plot of “Deadpool 2” remains the same with Deadpool fighting and killing bad guys, but when he meets a troubled pyrotechnic mutant named Russell, played by Julian Dennison, he resolves to protect him from a time-traveling, cyborg assassin called Cable, played by Josh Brolin. This eventually escalates to Deadpool forming a team of mutants called X-Force which includes the lucky Domino, played by Zazie Beetz. What follows is two hours of non-stop action and hilarity.

In most ways, “Deadpool 2” was superior to the 2016 film that spawned it. It had better action, more character development and great control of its many plotlines. Rather than coming across as too confusing, the film presented a narrative that moved smoothly. “Once Upon a Deadpool” captures much of what made “Deadpool 2” work, but it’s main hindrance is the fact that an R-rated film has been reduced to PG-13. The action is less bloody and the language had been somewhat polished. But unlike when films like “Deadpool” are on television and they are recut with none of the joy of the original, “Once Upon a Deadpool” knows it’s being recut and embraces it.

Rather than just replacing the word f–k with a lesser curse word, the film uses bleeps which can be used effectively in comedy. When Deadpool shoots a man, the only thing left is a bullet hole which is the film’s way of making fun of the unrealistically clean way action is handled in PG-13 films.

The best parts of “Once Upon a Deadpool” are the scenes where Deadpool and Fred Savage just make fun of comic book movies and the tropes that accompany them. One such instance is when Fred Savage says the “X-Men” films aren’t Marvel films because they are licensed by 21st Century Fox, comparing this to if “The Beatles were licensed by Nickelback.”

Another fantastic addition comes after the credits when a beautiful Stan Lee tribute is played. It shows what Stan Lee thought of his own legacy, how he loved working on comic books and the characters he co-created as well as unused takes featuring Lee for the trailer “No Good Deed,” a “Deadpool 2” teaser trailer played before the 2017 film “Logan.”

Overall, “Once Upon a Deadpool” is a pointless film that no one asked for but is enjoyable all the same. With Disney absorbing Fox, it is likely that the “X-Men” film franchise will integrate with the Marvel Cinematic Universe. If there’s one thing that “Once Upon a Deadpool” has taught us, it’s that whether he’s PG-13 or R rated, Deadpool will always be good as long as Ryan Reynolds continues to play this beloved character.