Was Once Upon A Deadpool Better As PG-13?
In short, no. Once Upon A Deadpool is still fun and the Fred Savage wraparounds work surprisingly well, but Deadpool 2 remains the superior version. Once Upon A Deadpool is a great idea for a DVD extra, but it doesn’t work as a standalone project. Deadpool 2 was written and shot with an R in mind, and the PG-13 cut is constantly pushing against those constraints. Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese have spoken of the time they wrote a PG-13 version of the original Deadpool, which was essentially the exact same story with milder violence and language. In that instance, they conceded that while it still worked, Deadpool is a character best suited to a higher rating.
In truth, Once Upon A Deadpool probably gets away with more than a typical comic book movie in regards to violence, but in a toss-up between the two versions, the R-rated cut wins every time. For super fans who are genuinely curious it’s just about worth checking out, but for those who’ve already seen Deadpool 2, there isn’t enough here to justify the price of a ticket. For parents who want to introduce their children to the character it also works, but again, it’s still pretty violent at times.
Once Upon A Deadpool Shows PG-13 Can Work
Once Upon A Deadpool feels like a grand experiment to test the waters of a PG-13 Deadpool ahead of the X-Men joining the MCU. For the price of a framing sequence shot on one set over the course of a few days and some re-edits, it's being sold as a whole new version. If nothing else, it shows a PG-13 version can work - but it’s not necessarily the best fit for the material either. A Deadpool movie should be foul-mouthed and chaotic, and in a PG-13 framework, the character feels boxed in. Maybe a Deadpool movie shot especially with that rating in mind could work in this regard.
Ultimately, Once Upon A Deadpool is a bizarre experiment that still kind of works. The framing device is a fun addition and most of the gags survive the transition intact. It’s doubtful fans – or Ryan Reynolds, for that matter – really want to see Deadpool turn PG-13, but this cut at least proves he can still function inside those restrictions. Whether or not he should is another question.