By: Kayla Caldwell
FREE GUY is like if you dropped Ted Lasso into one of the Grand Theft Auto video games. It’s a world of carjacking and robbery, where violent attacks have become so commonplace, everyone is desensitized to them. And yet, it’s also a world of hope and never-ending potential. How does that make any sense at all? Let's see.
Guy (Ryan Reynolds) is an NPC, also known as a “non-player character” in video game speak. He wakes up every day, says good morning to his goldfish, Goldie, eats cereal, puts on his blue button down, and heads off to work at the bank. There, he spends the day chatting with his best friend Buddy (Lil Rey Howery), at least, when they can get a word in amidst all of the bank robberies. Despite the constant chaos and lack of recognition, Guy is relentlessly optimistic, and still tells everyone to have not just a good day, but a "great day."
In Guy’s world, the people in sunglasses are the heroes. They are bold, fearless, and dangerous. They’re the ones who do the action, while the NPCs are there to be on the receiving end of the action. That is, until one day, when Guy sees the woman of his dreams, Molotov Girl (Jodie Comer), and decides he no longer wants to be a wallflower, no longer wants to be a Tess of the d'Urbervilles, walking around as merely a victim of everyone else’s actions.
He snags himself a pair of those magical sunglasses and nothing would ever be the same. And that’s not just hyperbole. Guy turns into a viral meme known as “Blue Shirt Guy,” as the world marvels at Guy - including the designers at Soonami Studios, who cannot figure out how this NPC-looking character is outmaneuvering them. Utkarsh Ambudkar and Joe Keery are hilarious as Soonami Studios tech guys Mouser and Keys, respectively.
Their ridiculous, overbearing, and ruthless boss is played to brilliant effect by Taiki Waititi. Sure, Antoine is a bad guy, but you’re almost so charmed by Waititi’s over-the-top caricature that you forget you’re supposed to dislike him. Don’t worry though - he’ll remind us why he’s the villain in a deliciously dramatic and desperate fashion.
Comer also plays Millie, the IRL human behind the Molotov Girl persona. She’s got a bone to pick with Antoine and Soonami Studios, and there’s clearly tension between her and Keys. FREE GUY bounces back and forth between the video game world, with characters such as Channing Tatum (with Matty Cardarople as the player behind the controls), and the real world.
Why is Guy, an NPC, suddenly appearing to think for himself? Why can’t brilliant coders Keys and Mouser get rid of this troublesome character? They come from all angles to get at Guy, even entering the game dressed as a 70s cop with a porn ‘stache and a terrifyingly ripped rabbit, respectively?
On the one hand, FREE GUY is flat-out absurd. It’s very much a Deadpool vibe, and equipped with Easter eggs of the foul-mouthed superhero. At one point, we’re faced with Dude, who is the meathead version of Guy. Think comically large muscles, and a small head. On the other, FREE GUY is a beautiful love letter to bravery, determination, and the human condition.
Guy is having an existential crisis. He has to decide between fighting for what he believes in, or giving up, and sinking into his own apathy, depression, and/or self-doubt. It’s shockingly relatable, especially during such a difficult time in the world. FREE GUY also touches upon issues such as Black Lives Matter, the plight of the essential worker, and feeling stuck and helpless in your life. However, none of this is presented in such a political way so as to take away from how goddamn fun FREE GUY is.
I do enjoy Ryan Reynolds, but I’m not the biggest gamer, so I wasn’t sure how much this movie would resonate with me. I’m happy to say that I wildly underestimated FREE GUY. I should have known to expect more from the man who brought us Big Fat Liar, Night at the Museum, and Date Night.
FREE GUY really has something for everybody. There are plenty of video game references, hilarious Disney Easter eggs, sweet emotional reveals, thrilling action sequences, and laugh-out-loud funny moments thanks to Reynolds, Howery, Waititi, Ambudkar, Keery, and more.
FREE GUY hits theaters on August 13, and trust me, it is more than worth the ticket price (as long as it’s safe to go to theaters in your area).