Free Guy Movie Review
Glad I was able to watch Free Guy for free. The box office hit starring Ryan Reynolds has plenty of energy and even more Ryan Reynolds charm, which is almost but not quite enough to overcome a bland screenplay and limp humor.
Having not played video games since I was a teenager in the late 90s, I may not exactly be in the target demo for this picture. But I do know what good comedy is, and Free Guy evokes not much more than a few chuckles here and there. Reynolds has the ability to charm even in lackluster fare, and his ever-cheerful demeanor paired with a straight man-but-the-joke-is-on-him routine does pay some dividends here. But Reynolds is the kind of actor who isn’t necessarily built to elevate material, and there just isn’t much to work with.
Free Guy has a decent-enough concept, about a generic “extra” in a video game who becomes self-aware and breaks from his algorithm. At the same time, in the real world, a young woman named Millie (Jodi Comer) is trying to prevent an evil game mogul (played by Taika Watiki, who too you can tell is desperately grasping for a comedic rhythm that isn’t there) from destroying the virtual world she helped build.
It bears similarity to The Truman Show in that it’s about a man who has been at the complete mercy of others, stuck in a simulated world, his entire life. Unfortunately, Free Guy has the emotional depth of a generic video game—Reynolds’ character by definition is one-note, and the relationship he forms with Millie lacks spark, perhaps because he isn’t real and she is. I’d agree that a movie about a video game character doesn’t need a ton of emotional depth, but director Shawn Levy and screenwriters Matt Lieberman and Zak Penn attempt to inject the story with the kind of throwaway romantic elements that are always used when filmmakers are unsure of how to really bring their concept to life with confidence and care.
Video game fans may find more of the little details interesting and worth a viewing or two, but Free Guy simply doesn’t click in the way it needed too. Not particularly funny though not without some modest entertainment value, Free Guy is best watched when free—anything more and you’d be wasting both your time and money.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.