I’m absolutely unbiased when it comes to MPAA ratings. I love Toy Story as much as I love Die Hard. It just matters how it serves the overall film. I’d rather the MPAA not exist at all, but they’re here to stay and filmmakers are left at their whim. Luckily, some filmmakers are still able to exert their creative ideas. A movie isn’t always defined by its rating, but there are some just some stories and characters that work better when they’re completely unrestricted. When you take away some of those elements, you take away what makes them unique in the first place. 

Once Upon a Deadpool opens up with Fred Savage (Fred Savage) waking up to find himself tied to bed inside the bedroom set from The Princess Bride. In front of him sits his captor Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds), there to read to him a storybook, which is just a PG-13 cut of Deadpool 2

So, yeah, what we have here is just a PG-13 cut of Deadpool 2 with the occasional scene of Ryan Reynolds and Fred Savage playing off each other. If you liked Deadpool 2, there’s maybe still plenty to like. I thought Deadpool 2 was fairly decent, two of the big strengths being the creative use of violence and gore, and its humorous, vulgar edge. Since those two elements are completely missing, it basically makes for watching a cable TV cut of the movie on the big screen. It really messes with the editing, cutting some of the best action scenes and gags incredibly short, while also messing with the comedic beats. There are some fun bits to censor the movie, though, such as Deadpool using a remote to beep out curse words and some admittedly clever cleaned up jokes. It really does show just how important the R-rating is for the character, where he’s free to do what he can. The humor may be crass and somewhat low-brow, but it’s impeccably delivered and timed, and it really brings the jokes down when it’s not completely there.

The scenes between Deadpool and Fred Savage are fun, but it’s nothing more than a cheap framing device in order to get around some of the more raunchy and violent plot elements. Aside from the occasional rewritten joke, there’s nothing else new here besides these scenes. It just feels really lazy. It’s called Once Upon a Deadpool after all and there’s nothing really Christmasy about it. It would have been silly, but I would have appreciated having Deadpool wearing a poorly CG-d Santa hat, or some obviously animated snow, or something. At least it would have had a modicum of effort. My biggest issue with Deadpool 2 was the pacing, so these scenes just makes it even more of a slog to get through, especially with the tamer tone. 

It’s fascinating that this movie exists in the first place. Was Fox really trying to test the waters with a PG-13 version of the character and see if it would be profitable? Were they just desperate to fill a Christmas release slot? Was it a bizarre idea from Ryan Reynolds? Who really knows? Either way, Once Upon a Deadpool is a mild novelty cash grab and that’s about it. Just stick with the original version. You know, the version that actually represents the vision of the filmmakers. 


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