The Truman Show for a new generation? Perhaps. Free Guy was screaming this kind of vibe and in all honesty, if there wasn’t the unstoppable force of Ryan Reynolds’ charm attached to the film, I’d have a very different opinion on this film. The premise of a character’s world being a lie has been done to death in all sorts of entertainment media and you be right in thinking that Free Guy doesn’t attempt to put its own spin on the premise, however what it does do is ensure that audiences have fun, satisfactory time with film that has most bells and whistles to ensure there’s no burning hole in your pocket.
This film falls into the “comfort viewing” category of films, meaning they don’t take too much thinking to watch, it mindless fun and you’re not afraid to admit you enjoy it every now and again. Being set in the GTA-esque video game Free City, unlike most video game films where those who aren’t a part of that crowd are immediately confused by the terminology, Free Guy doesn’t put too much emphasis on you understanding video game lingo. All that’s required of you is to soak in the hyperactive tone and have fun.
Ryan Reynolds’ likability knows no boundaries, although his personality comes through more than his performance, it’s clear that he is loving life at the moment. His character Guy is an every-man character right down to the name, everything about his appearance, his upbeat persona, his repetitive everyday routine, it’s all designed for us to reflect on the characteristics we share in him. The thing is, when you have a very likeable figure like Ryan Reynolds, you do have to think whether your initial liking of the character really is because you like the character and not just the man behind it, but there was no doubt about it, I do genuinely like Guy. I think I’d like him even without the laugh out loud factor Reynolds brings.
Guy however is not alone. You have two human characters in a resilient Millie (Jodie Comer) and her friend Keys (Joe Keery), two video game programmers who aren’t on the best of terms, which made all the more strained as Millie is looking to sue the creator of Free City Antoine (Taika Waititi) because she believes he stole the code she wrote for her own indie game with Keys and thinks there is proof in the video game, Keys on the other hand, works for Antoine. Of course, when Guy enters Millie’s life, things begin to get more complicated for the two. The seeds are immediately planted for a romantic relationship between Millie and Keys,
There are a plethora of little cameos and easter eggs dotted around Free Guy as the influence of pop culture also influences how light-hearted it can feel. But where films aimed at tweens often represent that target audience using the lowest of the low standards, Free Guy actually respects them, nowhere is this more evident than the fair representation of the YouTube/Twitch community. There are many celebrity cameos that make an appearance in Free Guy, but when I was watching it in the cinema, there was a kid sitting in the seat in front of me and he was getting more excited by the appearances of Ninja, Jacksepticeye and more. Not even a brief cameo from a certain Avenger could match the surprise the kid felt for DanTDM. As a bonus, there was no boiling content creators down to their worst qualities, their appearance was well respected.
The message of individualism and uniqueness is nothing new in a film like Free Guy, in terms of a film for young audiences, being yourself is the most overused message you can use in a film. Free Guy doesn’t do anything new with it, it’s more like a new lick of paint, but for the most part, it doesn’t bother too much. What does bother me is how the film so suddenly slides into hypocrisy. There is a conversation between Keys and Antoine about a planned sequel to Free City that will launch soon and how Antoine laments that people don’t want new things, they would rather have sequels and existing IP’s because “It’s all about numbers”. I thought to myself, finally a film that recognises what many people have been complaining about, but then in the films final climax, Guy fights his muscular alter ego Dude (also Ryan Reynolds) and uses various weapons from other video games, which also includes Marvel and Star Wars properties. So how does a film and character that preaches being unique end up winning by using already established properties? The answer, Disney.
I also have to say that although I’m a big fan of Taika Waititi, his performance as Antoine was a bit too cartoonish for my liking. He reminded me of Steve Martin in that campy Looney Tunes: Back in Action film, he’s so over the top that it’s hard to take him serious as the film’s primary antagonist. In moments where he is on the knife edge and supposed to be this intense presence, you’re still so wrapped up in the characters strange antics that his supposedly intense actions are kind of funny to watch.
Although Free Guy manages to be hypocritical in its message, I’m certain the writers missed that during the table read, Free Guy is still a lot of high energy fun. I used the term comfort viewing earlier and I adapted the term from comfort food because that is essentially what Ryan Reynolds and co. offer to you. You have the familiarity of Ryan Reynolds’ humour and it leaves nice afterthoughts once seen.
Final Result: 7/10 – Good
Have you seen Free Guy? What did you think? Please let me know your thoughts and opinions in the comments below.
Next Time: Reminiscence