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Review: 'Once Upon' cleans up but doesn't sanitize 'Deadpool'

PG-13 scrubbing of this year's 'Deadpool 2' shows film works without the curse words

Adam Graham
Detroit News Film Critic
Fred Savage and Ryan Reynolds in "Once Upon a Deadpool."

It turns out that even without all the naughty bits, "Deadpool" still works pretty darn well. 

Which is not to say that "Once Upon a Deadpool" is family-friendly. But the PG-13 repackaging of this year's "Deadpool 2," released in time for the holidays, cleans up a lot of the franchise's signature raunch, and the film, or the character, is no worse for wear. 

"Once Upon a Deadpool" uses alternate takes of jokes from "Deadpool 2," occasionally working around curse words by bleeping them out. It also updates current events; an RIP Stan Lee mural can be seen in the background of one scene, and a post-credits sequence pays homage to the Marvel creator, who died last month.  

The action in the film is broken up by scenes of Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) telling the movie's story to Fred Savage (as himself) in an homage to 1987's "The Princess Bride," an excuse for the film to up its level of self-referential humor. (The "Deadpool" films are already a house of mirrors. Savage's character adds another layer of commentary on the film, picking apart loose plot threads and forcing Reynolds-as-Deadpool to account for the film's gaps in logic and storytelling.) 

"Once Upon a Deadpool" is first and foremost a cash grab, but as such, it doesn't feel like a rip-off. It's an inventive way to get fans to pay to see a film they've already seen (and may already own), and it proves there's more to "Deadpool" than the R-rated gags. It's by no means essential — it doesn't add anything to the "Deadpool" story — but it shows even a PG-13 rating can't keep a good Deadpool down.