It’s remarkable how things change. Originally, the first Deadpool movie almost didn’t happen because the studio wasn’t confident that an R-rated superhero movie would have a big enough audience. However, the idea of making Deadpool, a famously irreverent and foul-mouthed character, into a PG-13 movie was viewed by many fans as simply going too far. And yet, today, we have a PG-13 version of Deadpool 2, titled Once Upon a Deadpool. Whether the character works under PG-13 restrictions is one conversation. Whether the movie succeeds in being acceptable for a wider audience is what we’re here talking about right now.
Not every PG-13 movie is created equal and what content one parent might find objectionable might be ok for another. At the same time, two kids of exactly the same age might handle certain types of content very differently. While my own daughter isn’t quite of the movie theater age yet, I have certainly begun to take these sorts of things into account.
In its R-rated format, both Deadpool movies certainly earn their ratings, so when you re-edit one down to a version that earns only a PG-13 rating, is what’s left really ok for kids? For the most part, I’d have to say that yeah, it mostly is, though there are certainly some important caveats to that.
Once Upon a Deadpool, is, aside from the humor which is unique to this franchise, essentially identical to every other PG-13 superhero movie currently gracing screens. There are some differences, to be sure, but let’s break the movie down into those segments that earn a film its rating.
One note, since Once Upon a Deadpool is really just a new version of Deadpool 2, a movie that’s been out for several months, I’ll be more liberal with the specific details and examples than I otherwise might be.
First, let’s start with sex and nudity. There really isn’t any sex. While the original Deadpool opened with a calendar’s worth of sex, Deadpool 2 never did include a sex scene and so Once Upon does not either. What’s more, most of the sexual jokes are gone. There’s an early reference between Wade Wilson and his girlfriend Vanessa that they’re going to have sex, but the reference to the use of a strap-on is gone, and the later joke that Deadpool’s prison roommate will be voted “softest mouth” has also been replaced with a less obvious prison rape joke.
As far as nudity goes, the one “nude scene” in the movie, is interestingly, still there. It’s part of a joke that sees Deadpool’s lower extremities growing back after he was ripped in half. He’s not wearing pants and he uncrosses and re-crosses his legs on screen. While the Deadpool 2 audiences got an eyeful, Once Upon a Deadpool pixelates the image. This way you don’t see anything, but it’s clear what you would be seeing if the movie were still rated-R.
Violence is probably the biggest issue with superhero movies, as the heroes are always fighting somebody, and while Once Upon a Deadpool certainly has its share, it’s well within the confines of the rating. People are still shot or stabbed and people are still killed. Violence does happen, but when it does it’s either completely bloodless or it takes place entirely off-screen. In Deadpool 2 we watched Juggernaut tear Deadpool literally in half. Here, the movie cuts away before the ripping starts and we only see the result from angles that prevents us from seeing any blood. A scene a few minutes earlier that sees Deadpool get shot multiple times has simply removed the CGI blood spray of the exit wounds.
The most interesting thing about Once Upon a Deadpool, from a content standpoint anyway, is the film’s language. Most foul language gets by a normal PG-13 movie. People can say “shit” or call each other “assholes” all day long. The one big exception is the big F-bomb. The MPAA traditionally allows one use of the word in a PG-13 film, as long as it’s being used in a non-sexual context. “Fuck you” is ok. “I want to fuck you” is not. The famously fourth wall breaking Deadpool even makes a joke about this fact at the beginning of the movie in some of the new Princess Bride related scenes with Fred Savage.
The first interesting thing is that, unless I entirely missed it, the movie doesn’t actually use its one alotted F-word. It’s possible that especially since I’ve seen the movie before, I may have let the one use go by me.
However, that’s not to say the movie never uses the F-word. In point of fact, it actually uses it quite a bit. While nearly all uses of the word have been removed or replaced in the Deadpool 2 portion of the movie, the word is used a few times or implied to be used in one specific sequence, between Deadpool and Fred Savage. The movie just chooses to bleep the word rather than have it be heard.
While this might technically be good enough for the MPAA, I’m not sure how well it will fly with most parents. If you don’t want your kid hearing the F-word in a movie, I’m not sure that the technicality of the fact that they don’t actually hear it, when it’s clearly being used, is going to work. There’s nothing wrong if that difference is good enough for you and your family, I just feel like many are either ok with the language or would like it gone entirely. This middle ground seems strange.
Some F-words get edited down so we only hear the first letter of the word before the rest is cut off by another line of dialogue. The rest of the words have been replaced in the same way you’d expect it to be done for an airing on basic cable, using new dialogue so laughably bad I’m surprised the movie doesn’t make fun of it.
In the end, the MPAA rating system is only supposed to be a guideline, not a definitive decision on what’s acceptable for what age child. Once Upon a Deadpool is a perfect example of that. It’s absolutely a PG-13 film based on content, but it does push that limit more than your average superhero movie.