Might contain spoilers.
Often-laughable ideas about programming and AI don’t get in the way of just how much fun and how funny this film is. Nor do they mar the authenticity of its video game elements. This is the pinnacle of Ryan Reynolds capitalizing on his persona, and it’s perfect. It’s obviously reminiscent of the sub-par Ready Player One , Zak Penn’s last video game movie, as well as films like The Lego Movie , but none of those can hold a candle to Free Guy. The only one to trump it is the brilliant Scott Pilgrim vs. the World , which is similarly a video game movie that isn’t based on a specific game.
Jodie Comer’s versatility and the honesty of her performance stand above the rest. Every emotion might as well be painted on her face. It’s certainly odd to have a British actor playing an American with a British accent, though—the American accent suffices for a few lines, then sounds wrong. Of course, her exaggerated British accent is much better.
Utkarsh Ambudkar (Mr. Kulkarni from Never Have I
Ever or Jern from Brittany Runs a
Marathon) fits the bill as a software developer once he
ditches the backwards baseball cap (and does a great job in the role). Joe Kerry is much harder to
believe as the supposedly nerdy
Steve Keys. Taika Waititi is funny a few times but
surprisingly not very good overall.
Chris Evans’s cameo had me doubling over with laughter. I would never have known it’s Hugh Jackman voicing the masked man and Dwayne Johnson as a bank robber had those not been pointed out to me so I could exclaim with delight. Meanwhile, I hate streamer culture but all the cameos undoubtedly add to the veracity. (Channing Tatum as Revenjamin and his real life avatar—avatar of an avatar?—make for a good gag.)
The people of Free City are genuinely nice, from Guy and Buddy to everyone else. Their reactions to
Guy wanting a cappucino are hilarious. I love that the barista eventually learns to make one; I wish
we could have seen her shock someone with it. Even Dude has Guy’s inherent goodness, which is why
Guy is able to defeat him not through fisticuffs but by giving him something to enjoy. I love that
a screed on gender roles once she’s freed from her routine. The
Officer John-NY! running gag reaches its side-splitting zenith with the broken Guy lying on
the ground after falling from a height and being dead for a few seconds before yelling it. It’s
obvious no citizens will be killed off, but it’s a relief when they’re finally saved.
The highlight of the film is Millie kissing Guy. The music, the expressions, the slow motion, the use of the established visual language for self-awareness… it’s all incredible. The scene elevates everything that came before and everything that comes after.
Once Millie and Guy had unambiguously fallen in love, I assumed the story would end with either Guy
manifesting in the real world—unlikely—or someting like Millie deciding to live half her life in the
game. I never expected the third option: Guy spontaneously, calmly letting Millie go so she can be
with the slightly bland
Steve Keys. It’s sweet how he tells her he’s a love letter to her. The
unspoken conversation between Millie and Steve Keys afterwards is very well done.
- Oh, so they put a button in and she found it? I very much doubt that.↩