Free Guy, a pleasant summer surprise from director Shawn Levy, mostly known for his questionable Night of The Museum franchise. This movie is not shy about its target audience, kids raised in the early 2000s to recent years, with its plot focused on a popular video game almost reminiscent of Grand Theft Auto. Here we focus on Guy, an NPC (Non-Playable Character) living in this chaos-inducing video game world, unaware of the actual players that fill Free City. He wears the same clothes and walks the same route to work every day until he learns the world he’s currently subsiding in is more than he originally thought. Meanwhile, game developer Millie, played by Jodie Comer, is persistent in proving that publisher Antwan (Taika Waititi) has stolen the game code made by her and her former partner, Keys (Joe Keery) to create Free City. A plot that sounds similar to the plot of Ready Player one, giving us a generic yet fun summer blockbuster flick with a surprising amount of decent writing.
Ryan Reynolds plays our front and center NPC and he delivers a fun and charming performance. Although he’s basically playing himself, the movie forms itself to fit his charismatic and enjoyable performance to not pull you out of the movie. Though marketing for Free Guy seems to center around Reynolds’ character, the rest of the cast steps up to the plate, leaving us with many memorable moments from each cast member. Jodie Comer, specifically steals the many scenes she’s in, even ones where she’s alongside Reynolds, I found myself more entertained by her performance. Fortunately, the writing of our characters is unexpectedly notable, with an added depth to our real-life characters, as well as our video game characters. Comer blends well with both Joe Keery’s character, as well as Reynolds, bringing an interesting dynamic between the two pairs. And of course, Taika Waititi, playing our villain, portrays an over-the-top representation of a video game publisher that feels somewhat unbelievable, but it’s hard not to love watching Waititi playing a pompous individual.
It’s also nice to see a movie about a video game that doesn’t completely overload itself with pop culture references, something Ready Player One desperately suffered from. Although Free Guy sometimes forces the references a bit too much here and there for a cheap laugh, most feel subtle and less distracting. And the CGI is well done, mixing real life with computer-generated objects feels so satisfying and smooth, keeping the audience engaged in this made-up world. However, at some point in the movie, perhaps one of the worst deep fakes completely twists the tone and delivers such a high-tier eye-rolling joke that is dragged on for far too long. Overall, the CGI is consistently smooth and well done throughout the movie.
And as you watch Free Guy, you may recognize some of the plot elements such as our main character becoming self-aware of the abnormal society he’s living in, controlled by a godlike individual giving their all to stop our main character from discovering the secrets of this inorganic world. Sound all too familiar? Perhaps it’s because you were thinking of Peter Weir’s 1998 masterpiece, The Truman Show. Although Free Guy strips down The Truman Show’s main complex themes of existentialism and uses its bare bones to create a less bleak and more colorful tone to fit the execution the writers were going for, it can be undoubtedly entertaining to watch a video game version of the brilliant film that is The Truman Show.
Though, Free Guy is of course filled with some distracting flaws, including the lack of logic and common sense from most of our characters for the sake of advancing the plot. And with its almost 2-hour runtime, there are several instances when lazy writing is apparent, with several jokes thrown in but never actually hitting the mark. The pacing of Free Guy is also exceedingly inconsistent at times, rushing its way towards the rising action at muddled speeds.
Regardless of its flaws, the world-building of Free Guy feels refreshing, spunky, yet also familiar by the use of real-life video game incorporations and mechanics to create a believable world. Co-writers Matt Lieberman and Zak Penn build an impressive, and tantalizing world especially to those familiar with the video game aspects and references strewn about. The concept of an NPC becoming self-aware is captivating enough, but also mixing in a subplot about real-life characters on an adventure of their own sounds like a movie on its way towards a convoluted mess. But Lieberman and Penn luckily wrote and executed this concept pretty well for audiences to be absorbed in.
At its core, Free Guy is chaotic, fun, and enjoyable for anyone looking for a movie to just turn their brain off for 2 hours. It comes with its flaws but overall, it gives the audience a captivating world, enjoyable cast, absorbing action, and pure untidy chaos. Free Guy proves to be this summer’s slightly above average blockbuster flick, striving to entertain those in need of constant amusement without having to worry about underlying complexities and implications.