I’ve always hated when someone said, “He was ahead of his time” or about some movie, music, or piece of art, “It was ahead of its time.” I’ve never used the phrase, but I’m going to now for the first time. The Edgar Wright movie Scott Pilgrim vs. the World was ahead of its time. It tanked at the box office, and it came in at #10 on my Top 10 list in 2010. It was the perfect way to turn a video game into a movie.
Many are going to think they did that brilliantly with Free Guy, which while entertaining, has a number of flaws. One of them being the first 15 minutes of this being painfully unfunny.
Ryan Reynolds would be perfect as Guy, a nerdy bank teller. There are two slight problems with that, though. Hearing his voice made me think of his snarky narrations in the brilliant Deadpool films; and just a month ago, in Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard. Also, the way he wakes up with an exaggerated smile and talks to his goldfish...kind of makes you think of Steve Carrell in The-40-Year Old Virgin or Jim Carrey in The Truman Show (both brilliant films).
As Guy walks to work, he utters his corny catchphrase to the same folks he sees each morning: “Don’t have a good day. Have a great day!” (I think that’s it).
His best friend is the security guard at the bank, and it’s awesome that Buddy is played by Lil Rel Howery. He’s one of those comedic actors that makes me chuckle any time he’s uttering something.
Their bank gets robbed daily. Now, before you think that maybe Buddy isn’t the best security guard...the reason is that these people are just side characters in a video game. The main characters are the “sunglasses people.”
Their video game is called Free City, and looks like a violent Grand Theft Auto type of thing.
Once Guy spots Molotov Girl (Jodie Comer), with her sporty cheap sunglasses (RIP Dusty Hill), he realizes he has to make a move. Since he gets rebuffed, he tries again the next day, after picking up a pair of sunglasses from a bank robber he just disarmed and shot. This allows him to get special powers and see the world in a whole different light (literally). It also creates major glitches in the system, as his character isn’t supposed to be a main character. And at this point, I thought of yet another movie that was done so much better than this -- Wreck-It Ralph.
It turns out Molotov Girl has different motives. In real life she’s Millie, and she and her pal Keys (Joe Keery) created a game that Antoine (the always brilliant Taika Waititi) stole. She’s going into the game to find answers.
Their time to get answers is limited, because Antoine is about to make a sequel, and once this game disappears...the evidence will be lost (I probably totally butchered that explanation, but you get the point).
Guy also was given A.I., so he thinks he’s real and is also able to learn things (like how to fight, and how to be a bit more charming towards Molotov). When he gets to a point where he starts rallying the troops (i.e., the other side characters), I couldn’t stop laughing when an older gentleman is always shown with his hands up (as he’s used to being the character that’s always part of the bank robbery). That visual never got old.
Another movie I thought this was similar to, but it was actually better than -- Ready Player One. That film stuffed way too many ‘80s pop culture references in. This had the perfect amount of those things that worked wonderfully.
I just felt that with an actor as talented as Reynolds (he can play humor and drama), I wanted it to have more of a Truman Show/Groundhog Day vibe in the emotional department.
There was a line about a sock...that’s the funniest line involving a sock since Richard Pryor was in an Exorcist skit on Saturday Night Live.
And while I hated the Mariah Carey song they kept playing, I’ll give them credit for playing the Humpty Dance (RIP Shock G). Oh, and that reminds me...they also had an Alex Trebek cameo. So it had references to two celebs who recently passed away.
While this movie is flawed, I can’t imagine anyone not having a blast watching it.
3 stars out of 5.