PG-13 for language mostly. It's got sci-fi violence that is associated with video games. If I had to pick the sandbox game that is getting most spoofed in this movie, it's Grand Theft Auto. But this is a much tamer Grand Theft Auto. It's on Disney+, so it can't be that offensive. That being said, I'm glad we didn't let my kids watch it. Regardless, PG-13.
DIRECTOR: Shawn Levy
Okay, people need to stop recommending comedies to me. I love Ryan Reynolds. He's a very funny human being and I respect the whole vibe he's got going on. It's a bit aggressive, but that's cool. It really works for him. But my buddy, whom I often trust when it comes to comedies, raved about this movie. It's fine, I guess. We all have to take the following into account: The man is in love and he watched it with his girlfriend. Of course it was hilarious. There's something about the communal experience that makes or breaks a comedy. My wife and I, who are also in love, were watching this as a distraction. As a distraction, it kind of works. But as a fully fledged comedy, it's very meh.
There's a lot that bugs me about this movie. It feels like I'm the salty old man who only likes snobby films. It doesn't help that I'm watching Free Guy because it has a Visual Effects nom for the Academy Awards. That means that I've been watching top tier art and then chased it with a spoof about video games. But Free Guy owes way too much to The Lego Movie. I keep coming back to The Lego Movie and for that, I apologize. But the story and the characters are the exactly the same. I hate this kind of writing, so bear with me. Emmett and Guy are background characters in someone else's story. They pride themselves on how mundane their lives are, down to purchasing overpriced coffee. (The same joke is in both movies, guys.) He encounters a hot lady rebel who wants to take down the system and is shocked by how vanilla this guy is. Together, they team up and Emmett / Guy learn how to really manipulate their game based environments to make them the most special characters in history. It's the same movie. Okay, I'm aware of tropes. But this really is beat-by-beat. It's so similar that there was almost nothing to look forward to except for wondering how Guy was going to end up with Millie.
Spoilers: He doesn't. My ending was better.
My ending was that Guy gives up on the fact that they come from separate worlds and that Millie was going to learn to love Keys, which is what happens. But then they program a virtual NPC Millie with the same algorithm that made him a real character. Come on. Instead, Free Guy relied on my least favorite rom-com trope: one of the guys ends up being such a mensch that he can just appreciate that Millie ended up with someone that made her happy. Come on. Where is the consequence there? If there is a relationship that Guy finds universe-changing, there should be some fallout when he gets rejected. Even just making him sad would have been a real option. But we need happy endings in our films, so that apparently isn't an option when it comes to storytelling. There's no real consequence to his actions. Heck, even Buddy is brought back to life for no real reason. (Remember, the server that held Buddy's code was completely wiped. I'm following the rules of the film here. Buddy coming back, while welcomed, doesn't make a lick of sense.)
I'm just going to continue griping because it is easy writing right now. I'm going to give this movie a middle-of-the-road review on Letterboxd, so don't worry. But there's so much holding this movie away from being great that it just irks me. Taika Waititi is completely wasted in this role. He's honestly one of the funniest human beings on Earth. The man is a borderline super-genius and he's playing the villain in this movie? His plan makes no sense. Antwan wants Free City 2 to be the biggest game ever. So he's going to wipe Free City 1? Okay, let's pretend that there's some logic to that. When Blue Shirt Guy becomes a social media sensation, it draws a lot of attention to Free City 1, which eventually makes Antwan mad? The movie tells us that pre-sales for Free City 2 go down because of all of the attention to Free City 1. This is a game that promised to port over everything from the first game into the second game, so why would people stop wanting to see Blue Shirt Guy in the sequel? If anything, it reads like a stunt from the company to draw attention to Free City 2.
Then, Antwan wants to purge Free City 1 because it has code that was stolen from Millie and Keys. That actually could be a reasonable motivation. But why doesn't Antwan just settle out of court if they have evidence against him? Instead of wiping out all of the users and destroying the game, implying that the consequences of such an action would be devastating, just pay them for the code? Or just stretch out the lawsuit as far as it could go. But he literally takes an axe to the company servers. Downing the game while it is being streamed to the world seems like a way more economically suicidal move than simply taking a slap on the hand. Now, if I was being a little more even-keeled about this movie, which I admit that I should be, I could analyze this and realize that the villain has more of an issue with pride and humility than money. But it is just so weird. It seems like inflated stakes when the movie doesn't really justify these stakes.
But if you are looking for a movie to make you laugh, there's some cute stuff in here. I don't think I ever guffawed, but it's a fun time. The themes are pretty empty. There's that element of finding the value in the self and the mundane. There's the American Dream of worthiness and the transcendental self-actualization that can be inferred by Guy's stepping out of his bank teller role. But I can almost guarantee that no one behind the making of this movie was shooting for lofty ideals. They were making a movie about video games that got nominated for a visual effects award, despite the fact that the visual effects were super-duper forgettable. If anything, the stylized world of Free City inhibits really impressive special effects. Also, considering how good the visuals are for movies like Dune, it's kind of hilarious that Free Guy is even on this list.
Honestly, Free Guy is okay at best. I wish it was great. There's a lot of talent here, but it is a Lego Movie knock-off with less investment. I actually would sooner watch The Lego Movie again than Free Guy.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.