The recycled, repurposed “Once Upon a Deadpool” answers the question geeks and movie-industry wags have been asking for months: What will it like when Disney gets its squeaky-clean mouse mitts on Fox’s hyper-violent Marvel franchises?
The answer: It won’t be pretty, but creative minds may pull something good out of it.
What director David Leitch and star/producer/prime mover Ryan Reynolds have done here is cut together an airline edit of this summer’s “Deadpool 2.” The F-bombs have been defused with bleeps or surreptitious overdubs. The blood-and-guts have been trimmed back. The bare backsides have been pixelated.
As before, the filmmakers are telling the story of how Deadpool (played by Reynolds) loses his lady love Vanessa (Morena Baccarin) to a gangster’s wayward bullet — and how, unable to die himself, he throws himself into trying to protect a teen mutant, Russell (Julian Dennison), from either getting killed by warrior-from-the-future Cable (Josh Brolin) or ending up a ruthless killer himself.
Some of the best gags — like the formation and rapid disintegration of Deadpool’s “forward-thinking, gender positive” X-Force — are truncated, because they originally relied on comical gore or profane reactions. A few DVD-worthy deleted scenes are restored to pad out the running time, but they mostly serve to show why they didn’t make the cut in the first place.
The gimmick tying it all together has Deadpool relating the plot, like a bedtime story, to Fred Savage in a duplicate of the bedroom set from “The Princess Bride.” Of course, Fred’s not a kid anymore, and he’s really ticked off at being put in this position — so his revenge is making snarky comments about Fox’s handling of Marvel material, the misogyny of killing off Vanessa to motivate Deadpool’s actions (a k a “fridging”), and the ubiquity of mid-credit and after-credit scenes. (There are four overall here, including a touching tribute to the late Stan Lee.)
The jokes with Savage induce a few laughs, but nothing compared to what’s lost in the sanitizing process. “Once Upon a Deadpool” dismisses what makes the Deadpool movies entertaining: The way they impishly revel in the extreme comic-book violence that Disney-owned Marvel movies are afraid to touch.
‘Once Upon a Deadpool’
Opens Wednesday, December 12, at theaters everywhere. Rated PG-13 for action violence, sexual content and language. Running time: 119 minutes.