Free Guy is strongly reminiscent of a number of other films. The Lego Movie, Spy Kids 3 and Wreck It Ralph Breaks the Internet come immediately to mind.
Others have compared it to The Truman Show but that doesn’t really feel accurate. There are elements of the 1998 Jim Carrey movie in here, especially toward the end, but it isn’t just protagonist Guy’s world that isn’t real, he’s not real either. Deadpool has been mentioned in connection with this film too but only because both star Ryan Reynolds. The two characters are actually very different, aside of the one line quips. This is actually the first time Reynolds has played things differently for a while with Deadpool, The Hitman’s Wife, 6 Underground, Hobbs and Shaw, Detective Pikachu and Life all riffing on the same schtick. Here he displays a genuine sweetness and innocence that is absent from anything he has done in the last five or six years.
The main reason that The Lego Movie, Spy Kids and Wreck It Ralph all fit though is because they are all kids’ films and so is this. It is a 12A due to mild innuendo but the writing and logic lack the sophistication of anything more grown up. To be fair, they lack the sophistication of at least two of the three movies I’ve cited too. Free Guy just feels very light. The visuals are great but they’ve not paid the same attention to the story or the script and as such it is typical of all of those sub par children’s flicks wheeled out by Dreamworks and The Disney Channel; films that are built on casting and concept with little else behind them. It is authored by Matt Lieberman and Zak Penn who between them have given us Scoob!, The Christmas Chronicles, the Ed Norton Hulk and X-Men: The Last Stand so if you want to know what to expect, compare it to those films.
This doesn’t mean Free Guy isn’t fun. It is frivolous fun but it is fun. The set up is that Guy, a non player character in a computer game becomes sentient and starts playing alongside the desk chair adventurers. This leads to lots of comedy fights and explosive action and the film has lots to say about people who are normally seen as insignificant. It is also pretty critical of the mentality and attitudes of those who play violent games like Grand Theft Auto and Call of Duty which is bold as many of these are also the target audience. There is a lot going on here that you wouldn’t get if you weren’t a gamer (presumably). The film also has cameos from a lot of famous YouTubers (apparently).
This being 20th Century
Fox Studios, which is now owned by Disney, and because Disney owns everything else, there is a nice cameo for my brand of geek too so I did appreciate that one. It says something when the highlight is a two second clip of an Avenger though.
The Ripley Factor:
Playing opposite Ryan Reynolds (44) is Jodie Comer (28). Anyone who has seen any of Comer’s brilliant performance in Killing Eve will have been sure that Hollywood would snap her up at some point but history may not remember this as the film that did it. (She was also in The Rise of Skywalker very briefly.) She is in both of Ridley Scott’s next two films, The Last Duel and Kitbag, and I wait eagerly for those (with Scott things could go either way here too) but here she is utterly wasted. She is good but anyone could have played the part this way. Director Shawn Levy (best known for the Night at the Museum films, make of that what you will as well), simply doesn’t know what to do with her talents.
Her character Millie is determined and strong, particularly in the game as Molotov Girl, and she kicks ass with the best of them but there are no real stakes for her to overcome. It looks like she might be in danger when she finally faces off against Taika Waititi’s bad guy but it all comes to nothing. (Waititi himself has abandoned his usual dry subtlety and it totally doesn’t work.)
The romantic elements of the film look like they are going off in an interesting direction too but it goes the way of Guy’s orange Chevrolet Camaro and swerves off toward safety at the last minute.
So, to borrow common gaming parlance, GLHF.
(I looked that up, obviously.)