When I saw the trailers for Free Guy, they didn’t leave much of an impression on me. The virtual world they teased was reminiscent of Ready Player One or Pixels. Still, nothing seemed good or bad so much as forgettable. And that’s precisely what happened; I forgot this movie even existed until my husband suggested an impromptu trip to see it. I like Ryan Reynolds, but the concept of a video game world rife with pop culture characters and references has gotten old fast in the past few years. Let’s take a look.
Guy (Ryan Reynolds) is an everyman who works at the bank, has a pet goldfish, and just loves a medium coffee with cream and two sugars. Every day in Free City is roughly the same for Guy. After getting his usual coffee order, he talks to his best friend Buddy (Lil Rel Howery) at the bank while they await the inevitable robberies they suffer multiple times daily. However, everything changes for Guy one day when he encounters Millie (Jodie Comer) on the street. Guy does everything in his power to get her attention. This leads him to level up significantly by doing good deeds. This sharply contrasts the behavior of the players who gain experience by committing crimes and hurting NPCs like Guy. Guy soon draws attention as an outlier as his life changes for the better.
Free Guy is laugh-out-loud hilarious. Ryan Reynolds is out in full force with his comedic timing, and still, some of the film’s best lines come from side characters. There’s an extended scene with a streamer that had me in tears for all the right reasons. Not every joke landed for me, but overall, I laughed more with this than I have with a new movie in a while. What really got me, though, was how sincere and heartwarming Free Guy is. There’s a really sweet love story here, and that’s not even what the main plot is about. The friendship between Guy and Buddy is genuinely funny and emotionally affecting. Guy’s choice to level up by helping rather than hurting people moved me as simple as it was.
Free Guy’s original musical score by Christophe Beck is pretty good. The composer is pretty reliable, with scores like WandaVision, the Frozen movies, and Ant-Man under his belt. The main theme in Free Guy is very catchy. Seriously, I know I’m going to wake up humming this. I didn’t care so much for some of the song choices in Free Guy. They’re mostly played for laughs, though, so I didn’t mind too much. The costumes and makeup are very good, about what you’d expect from a movie like this. The visual effects are outstanding, especially in Free City (obviously). I’m surprised I haven’t heard much about this facet of the movie because it’s visually stunning. There’s also a convincing (and hilarious) effect involving Ryan Reynolds’ face that was almost worth the price of admission by itself.
Free Guy has a lot of references to other media, particularly other franchises and characters owned by our evil mouse overlord. Most of this was actually very funny, including a cameo that had me in stitches. However, I didn’t care for the Star Wars joke. It went on for too long and was too overstated to capture that comedy magic.
Overall, Free Guy isn’t a masterpiece, but I had a lot of fun with it. The world of Free City is gorgeous and escapist. The technical aspects are all up to par. More importantly, this is the most I’ve laughed in the theater in a while. That would have been enough for me, but Free Guy didn’t stop there. This movie has a big heart and develops believable motivations and relationships for its characters. Several scenes near the back end genuinely moved me. For a movie with such poor marketing and a played-out premise, they really hit it out of the park with this one. I had a great time with these characters, and that’s all I can ask.