Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Jodi Comer, Lil Rel Howery, Taika Waititi, Joe Kerri, Utdesh Shambukar, and Channing Tatum.
Directed By: Shawn Levy
Where I Watched It: Disney Plus (though it is also now on HBO MAX)
English Audio Description Available?: Yes
The Plot: For every gamer that has long wanted a Grand Theft Auto movie, this is about as close as you’ll ever get. Guy (Reynolds) is a non-playable character inside a open world video game eerily similar to Grand Theft Auto online, and after he has a run in with a player known as Molotov Girl (Jodi Comer), he becomes sentient and breaks out of his daily routine.
What Works: Reynolds is probably a perfect casting choice here. Not that I disagree with any of the casting choices, but the script is tailor made for Reynolds and his brand of humor. I’m quite shocked this maintained a PG-13 rating. They know how violent these types of video games usually are, and from Guy’s perspective it should seem like a hell scape.
But, Shawn Levy, who has several family friendly titles under his belt, managed to touch lightly on that culture, while taking a different direction with the story. It won’t work for everyone, and even though I would have rather this film “went for it” by exploring all the terrible behavior gamers actually participate in while playing these types of games, I understand this is more of a lighthearted romp.
No one was looking for an Oscar, despite the fact they got nominated for visual effects. This is just supposed to be widely accessible fun, with a tinge of reality.
What Doesn’t Work: Escapism is fun to a point. i did finally appreciate when someone blew up a cop car, because that’s the kind of stuff that routinely happens in this type of game. It is chaos. And, there should have been at least one little kid screaming into his headset. Of all the decisions this film made, when showing us all the real world players, the fact that there weren’t a bunch of kids between the ages of 8-16 screaming obscenities at their screen took me the most out of this “reality”. I’m sorry, but pretending the target demo for this is adults, and that the news would ever bother reporting on a game the way they do, is just a leap too far for me.
I love me some Taika as much as everyone else, but his villain is frustratingly inept and stupid, while also wielding a massive amount of power. He was too dumb in his decisions for me to believe he could actually be in that position. No matter how much your back is against the wall, when you are that close to launching a sequel, you wouldn’t make half the calls he does in order to try and thwart his progress. Pissing off your fan base right before you want them to buy your next game, any video game executive would have gone very different routes. But honestly, I never expect a Shawn Levy film to make 100% sense, or perfect. He makes fluffy entertainment, and that’s what this mostly was.
The Blind Perspective: Considering the universe around, and the concept, I felt like the description did a good job of keeping track of who was who, where they were, and the insane video game happenings around them. This is semi-accurate to what playing a game like this would be, except it is slightly sanitized.
Final Thoughts: An r rating, and screaming kids trolling each other online would have been more realistic. Having a player posted up somewhere, just blowing up cop cars, that’s the reality. Not just of GTA, but all the imitators like Saints Row or Crackdown. People don’t play those games to behave, your missions aren’t nice, these games are violent and your character is frequently expected to kill tons of people. So, for what this is, a childlike version of that, Free Guy is mindless fun. And most of that has to do with the perfectly cast Reynolds.
Final Grade: B-