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‘Once Upon a Deadpool’ Leans Hard on a Nickelback Joke, Makes Light of Unemployment

Are we laughing against our will?

The question of whether or not you can take your kids to the newly repackaged PG-13 Once Upon a Deadpool might have more to do with whether or not you think your kids will get Nickelback jokes and veiled references to mass layoffs rather than any concerns about swearing or violence. The first trailer for the “new” movie is here, and Fred Savage is dissing Deadpool and pretty much every single Marvel movie that isn’t produced by Marvel Studios.

First off, in case you haven’t been following this development, two weeks ago, Fox and Ryan Reynolds suddenly announced that this summer’s Deadpool 2 would be released as a more family-friendly PG-13 cut, for a limited run during the holidays. This new version has a framing mechanism where Deadpool (Reynolds) captures Fred Savage in an homage to the bedtime story framing from A Princess Pride. (Which is eerily timed given the recent death of William Goldman.)

Anyway, the first trailer for Once Upon a Deadpool (I.E. PG-13 recut of Deadpool 2) has just been released by Fox and it’s about as self-referential as possible. To be clear, meta-fictional call-outs are pretty common in the Deadpool movies, but this one gets even weirder since Fred Savage and Ryan Reynolds are basically talking about the Fox/Disney split of Marvel movies openly in the trailer. “We are Marvel!” Deadpool insists. To which Fred Savage replies, “Yeah, but you know, you’re Marvel licensed by Fox. It’s like if the Beatles were produced by Nickelback. It’s music. But it sucks.”

This is weird for a lot of reasons. First, it’s funny, but also confusing. Not even hardcore fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe would say the X-Men movies (Marvel licensed by Fox) suck, and certainly no one would say that of Logan or the existing two Deadpools. But the joke still works because even though everyone likes the Fox Marvel movies, it’s also true that everyone generally agrees that they seem like faux-Marvel movies in contrast with the Marvel Studios cinematic universe films. What’s doubly strange about this, is that the Fox/Disney merger means much of these distinctions could vanish in the next several years, which also means, about 7,000 people have already lost their jobs or will lose their jobs as a result of this business decision. It’s just weird to see a joke about this fact. It’s like we’re laughing, but we feel shitty about it once we think about it.

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The other thing that’s weird about this, is the Nickelback joke. Didn’t it become passe to mock Nickelback a few years ago? Is this still a go-to-joke? How are we supposed to feel about any of this?

Once Upon a Deadpool opens in limited release on December 12. A portion of the profits from movie ticket sales will go to the cancer charity, LetsFCancer.