Fred Savage and Deadpool, played by Ryan Reynolds, star in a scene from the movie “Once Upon a Deadpool.” (CNS photo/Fox)

NEW YORK (CNS) — Somebody over at 20th Century Fox — or, perhaps, someone in Marvel Comics’ real-life universe — came up with the following idea: Let’s slightly rework this year’s “Deadpool 2” in order to have it qualify for a less restrictive rating from the Motion Picture Association of America than the original R, let’s market it to a broader audience over the holidays and let’s give away a portion of the proceeds to charity.

Bearing in mind Disney’s ongoing plan to purchase Fox, the motive here may not be so much greed as an attempt to test the waters for a more restrained version of the snarky superhero of the title, played by Ryan Reynolds (who also co-wrote the script of “Deadpool 2” with Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick).

Whatever the thinking, much of the objectionable material remains. So, even toned down, the result, retitled “Once Upon a Deadpool,” is hardly family fare.


Besides subtractions of violence and gore, there’s the addition of a framing narrative in which Deadpool recounts his adventure to actor Fred Savage in an homage to Savage’s childhood role in 1987’s “The Princess Bride.” The fact that Savage is all grown up now, and that Deadpool has tied him up and is holding him as a literally captive audience is meant to provoke merriment. But it’s more ho-hum than ho-ho-ho.

The plot is essentially unchanged as Deadpool tangles with Cable (Josh Brolin), a time traveler from the future, over the fate of Firefist, a mutant teen (Julian Dennison). His main ally in the struggle is Domino (Zazie Beetz) a self-designated superhero whose power, ironically, is incredible luck.

There are bits and pieces of positive morality to discern along the way. Deadpool pursues exclusive romance, albeit his girlfriend, Vanessa (Morena Baccarin), shares his digs. Under Vanessa’s spell, he also undergoes a conversion in his attitude toward family life and fatherhood. And the protective bond he eventually forms with Firefist reaches the heights of altruism in the movie’s climactic sequence.

As with director David Leitch’s first iteration, there are also some stillborn themes that might have been of interest: Is it permissible to target a currently innocent child because of the mayhem he may cause in later life? Can a caring intervention prevent someone from going down the wrong path? Can retroactive revenge be justified?

The focus on action and smart-alecky dialogue leaves such questions lying dormant. So teens won’t be missing much of substance if parents wisely counsel them to make a different viewing choice.

The film contains pervasive mostly gore-free violence, cohabitation, much sexual and some scatological humor, a benignly viewed incidental gay relationship, mature references, including to incest and contraception, a couple of slightly irreverent jokes, several uses of profanity, at least one rough term, frequent crude and crass language and obscene gestures. The Catholic News Service classification is L — limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.