In the endlessly reiterative hall of mirrors that is pop culture, the PG-13 re-release of “Deadpool 2” as “Once Upon a Deadpool” — complete with a new frame story spoofing “The Princess Bride” — is a milestone.
No, not because it’s the third version of this film in just over seven months (including the “Super Duper $@%!#& Cut” home edition). That might be a record, but probably not, and certainly one likely to be broken soon enough. But this may be the first time Hollywood heavyweights have joined in the fray of fanboy debate using the ultimate megaphone of a big-screen release.
If you don’t love “The Princess Bride,” there is absolutely no reason to fork over 10 bucks to see “Deadpool” 2.2 in the theater — unless you belong to that mythical demographic of under-17s with no way of seeing the R-rated original or the unrated “Super Duper” version. But it’s still “Deadpool 2,” and as glorified DVD commentary, the cut scenes are certifiably hilarious.
Fred Savage, of course, played the grandson in “Princess Bride,” and here he finds himself duct-taped to a bed in a re-creation of that old set, with Peter Falk’s kindly grandpa replaced by Ryan Reynolds in full Deadpool regalia. Their faux-antagonistic banter includes a nonplussed Savage refusing to deliver a famous line (“Is this a kissing book?”): “I’m not 12 anymore.”
In between the on-brand adolescent gags, Savage also interrupts to chide Reynolds for “lazy writing” and all the other sins of comic geekery that the “Deadpool” team has been accused of. Particularly, the pair revisits the debate over “fridging” — a term, from feminist critics, for the overused plot device of killing off wives and girlfriends to give superheroes a tragic backstory and a reason to fight.
Back in May, the writers’ defense for repeating this tired trope was essentially to plead ignorance of the intricacies of comic-book discourse (“it didn’t really even occur to us”). And Reynolds doesn’t really have a better answer here — lazy writing is lazy writing — but it’s definitely a funnier one, and it will provide yet more fodder for fans from the progressive wing to psychoanalyze. Are these white-dude movie moguls really engaging, or are they just going along to get along?
If nothing else, though, “Once Upon a Deadpool” is further proof that the film-rating system is useless. OK, maybe they cut a couple seconds out of that scene where Deadpool gets ripped in half, but the movie’s sardonically gruesome sensibility remains intact. And bleeping out the F-word only gives Reynolds the opportunity to make us “hear” it even when it’s not actually being spoken.
But, come to think of it, having your cake and eating it too is pretty on-brand for “Deadpool.”
‘Once Upon a Deadpool’
Twentieth Century Fox presents a film directed by David Leitch and written by Ryan Reynolds, Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick. Rated PG-13 (for intense sequences of violence and action, crude sexual content, language, thematic elements and brief drug material). Running time: 119 minutes. Now showing at local theaters.