Free Guy is a self-aware film that really strives for that Deadpool humor. “IPs and sequels, that’s what people want,” said Taika Waititi’s narcissistic millionaire character, Antoine. While he’s not wrong, the joke will lose its luster once Free Guy inevitably gets a sequel. Waititi himself is guilty of boarding the Disney train as he is currently working on Thor: Love and Thunder, a sequel to the third installment in the Thor franchise, Thor: Ragnarok, which Waititi also directed. But Waititi has also carved out time to make Jojo Rabbit, the endearing Oscar-winner from 2019. In comes Free Guy, an original movie about a “non-playable character” in a video game that realizes that there is more to life and embarks on a journey to become a hero. The concept is clever if nothing else, and the imaginative concept with a good cast makes Free Guy a button-mashing fun time that is the type of video game movie that actually works.
You know what Ryan Reynolds you’re getting in Free Guy. If you saw Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard earlier this summer, it’s basically the same role where he won’t hurt innocent people and is hit by a car as many times as Ninja appears in this movie (which is never something I would imagine saying). Despite how tired Reynolds’ shtick is, it works in Free Guy. His “non-playable character” is filled with innocence, and the puppy-eyed look works with the character who begins discovering the limitless possibilities of the world once he throws on some shades that would make Bono jealous.
If you’ve ever played GTA V, Free Guy does a decent job at replicating that world without being overbearing. From the “badge system” (as opposed to the star system in the GTA games), to players spewing offensive jokes through game chat, to the celebratory emotes that players do, Free Guy encapsulates a certain type of open-world game that remains very popular. While not nearly as vulgar as a GTA game, Free Guy does push the boundaries with quite a few jokes that’ll go over the heads of younger audience members.
Where we hit a bit of a 2K-like server crash is the set pieces. There is a reason that people play video games, and that is because it’s a mindless activity. That being said, the action in this movie is so mindless that it’s numbing like a Marvel movie’s third act. A lot is thrown at you on the screen, and following it is like nodding along in a boring conversation. Free Guy almost got away from the Ready Player One syndrome of throwing all of the IPs in your face, but the way they incorporate Disney’s properties is at least somewhat imaginative.
While Free Guy is extremely tongue in cheek with its humor, Ryan Reynolds and Taika Waititi really kill it in their roles and make it work. Waititi is especially hamming it up, but that’s what the movie calls for. It’s a fun movie that isn’t necessarily trying to make you think very much (though their attempt at throwing a political reference was laughable at best), and it is appropriate in the age of Twitch and popularity of streaming. Free Guy is a mostly lag-free viewing experience, that is unless you notice just how much keyboard clicking is going on.