Once Upon a Deadpool is the same movie, but incoherent
A little background: Fox recently bumped its big end of year release, Alita: Battle Angel, to February as a dual effort to coincide with the Lunar New Year (yay, China box office!) and to avoid butting heads with other big winter releases, namely Aquaman, Bumblebee, Mary Poppins Returns, and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Probably a smart move. With Alita moving to February, this also bumps the latest X-Men flick, Dark Phoenix to a summer release. Good business all around. The problem is, what can Fox cram into their now empty December slot? Easy: tap an old cash cow, and create a new audience for it.
You see, Once Upon a Deadpool is just a PG-13 rerelease of Deadpool 2. My guess is that all of the kids who weren’t allowed to see the film earlier in the year might be able to convince Mom and Dad to take them to the multiplex for a sanitized (albeit still relatively edgy) version of the film. It’s going to be playing for just a few days, and if my predictions are correct, it’ll be a massive failure, which is fine, because it cost almost nothing to make. I’m no mathematician, but if just a handful of people pop in at each theater where it’s playing, it’ll turn a profit, and if they don’t (they won’t) Fox loses nothing but whatever amount it cost to hire Fred Savage for a day’s work.
Yes, you heard me. Fred Savage is in this movie, and as I understand it, all of his material was shot over the course of a single day. Basically, Deadpool has kidnapped Fred Savage, tied him to a bed, and is now telling him the story of Deadpool 2, á la The Princess Bride. It’s pretty funny, and both Reynolds and Savage are game. The banter they share is witty, quick, and full of knowing jabs at Fox, Marvel, and even the raw capitalistic cynicism that led to this project existing at all. Collectively over the course of the film, we check in with the duo maybe seven or eight times. And every time we do, it’s a relief, because the PG-13 cut of Deadpool 2 mostly sucks.
The appeal of the Deadpool movies (and a general rule of comedy, really) is the pacing. References, zingers, and moments of comically extreme violence are unleashed at a rapid fire rate. There’s no time to process whether or not a gag lands, because by the time it hits the viewer, the film is three more gags ahead. It’s a machine gun, not a sniper, and in a world that has become pretty inconsistent in what is acceptable in humor, I’ve always admired the “I don’t give a fuck what you think” attitude of the Deadpool franchise. It makes me laugh, and has somehow become so well-loved that my misgivings about the state of comedy can’t help but be put to bed a little bit. The thing is, by reducing the film to a PG-13 rating, the “I don’t give a fuck” attitude becomes disingenuous. Once Upon a Deadpool recognizes this — calls it out, even — but that doesn’t cancel it out. Then again, if this lame experiment makes some kid out there happy, I’m all for it.
Unfortunately, in order to get Deadpool 2 below an R rating, it takes a fair amount of shaving and stitching. Like I said before, the pacing of the film is key, and in a film where there’s an expletive or a moment of gruesome violence every few seconds, to remove any of it is to sacrifice coherence, both on a micro and macro level. The fight scenes, which David Leitch originally directed with verve and clarity, look like any other hyper-cut mess of colors and sounds. The characters suffer from having their personalities removed, and as such, the plot feels both rushed and overlong. Rushed because so much of it has been shaved away; overlong because it’s impossible not to disengage from it entirely. The swagger that makes Deadpool the anti-hero of the box office is gone entirely.
Ugh, and the ADR work is atrocious. I’m typically a bit oversensitive to bad ADR work, but here it’s hard to miss.
It’s not entirely without value, however. The Fred Savage material really is fantastic, and there’s even a hidden on-screen tribute to Stan Lee that warmed my heart. On that front, stay until the very end of the credits for added Savagery and a touching Stan Lee tribute that made me cry.
Or just wait until all of these things are a special feature somewhere and watch it then.
Now give me a Domino movie!!!
Once Upon a Deadpool is now playing in Philly theaters.