Free Guy can be shamelessly commercial, even hanging a mild bit of character development on a hit Mariah Carey song. Yet despite some noticeable script flaws, Free Guy manages to be a fun and light-hearted story of self-discovery with hints of The Truman Show, Ready Player One, and more baked in. With Ryan Reynolds‘ affable leading performance, the charms of the film pull you in, even though this is ultimately a middling effort at best.
Reynolds plays Guy, an NPC video-game character in a popular Fortnite-like game called Free City. He lives out the same routine everyday with a blinding happiness until he begins to question his routine and try to do something different. The plot essentially centers around the explanation of why a video-game character begins to become sentient, and it all boils down to what is essentially some mild corporate espionage. We cut back and forth between the video-game world and the real world, where two programmers (Joe Keery and Jodie Comer) fight off the machinations of money-hungry Antoine (Taika Waititi), who stole their code.
As one might guess from that description, much of the plot has a been-there done-that feeling to it. Free Guy deals in the tropes of some of the previously-mentioned films. Director Shawn Levy has made a career out of mid-tier comedies that are just competent enough to be entertaining, if never great. I will give Free Guy credit for being firmly planted in the modern day, with its use of YouTuber commentary and ideas about careers in game design. It avoids the false missteps that this type of film might have had 10 years ago.
Yet much of Free Guy still feels safe and by the numbers. It hints at a few interesting ideas that evoke Her, but it backs away from ever becoming as deep or impactful as that. Free Guy is here to be a fun, blockbuster-like film, and on those terms, it largely succeeds.
Reynolds just oozes charisma. Waititi’s small, villainous role is a tad goofy, but Waititi is naturally funny enough to make it work. There are also some fun cameo roles from a variety of actors that I won’t spoil.
The ending of the film seems almost to parody modern blockbusters, though Free Guy can’t help but be one at the same time. The corporate synergy of Disney owning everything is used to its fullest extent, with some major properties getting a nod in the finale including a well-timed moment that left me laughing quite loudly.
The unfortunate part of Free Guy is that there is so little to it. Its theme of finding purpose and its half-hearted romance subplot feel staid and predictable. The fact that this review is struggling to find more to say says all.
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