MESSAGE IN THE MOVIES
Guy (Reynolds) gets up in the morning with a smile on his face and a positive attitude about his daily routine. After picking up his regular morning coffee (cream, two sugars) he heads to work as a bank teller. He chats with his friend, security guard Buddy (Lil Rel Howery), for a bit before there is a bank robbery. Everyone drops to the floor.
The next day, Guy does the exact same thing. He is unaware that he lives as a NPC (non-player character) in Free City, a video game. His job is simply to be background window dressing to the car chases, explosions, and mayhem all around him. He becomes attracted to another character named Millie who he calls Molotov Girl (Comer). To observe her more closely he grabs a pair of glasses from one of the bank robbers and discovers that he can see the world as the computer-generated vista it was designed to be. Suddenly, Guy takes agency and begins to do good deeds in order to power up to the next level.
Since Free City is a popular online game, hundreds of players begin to notice something different going on and start calling his character “Blue Shirt Guy”. Back in the headquarters of Soonami Games, the autocratic CEO (Taika Waititi) wants to get to the bottom of this disruption in the force and put an end to it. A couple of game developers (Joe Keery, Jodie Comer) want to get the credit for Free City since they suspect that it is built upon their foundation of an earlier game.
These two plotlines crisscross in amusing fashion for about two hours and it’s enough to keep nondemanding audiences sufficiently entertained – kind of like a video game, come to think of it!
Free Guy would be bland if it weren’t for the creativity baked into it. Ryan Reynolds is always a likeable screen presence. Jodie Comer is also appealing and the script takes care to make her a worthy partner alongside of Guy. The computer-generated world that is created is layered and beautiful to look at.
On the other hand, the movie isn’t as clever about videogames as the recent Jumanji films, it falls short of the existential questions posed by The Truman Show (or even The Lego Movie). The conclusion of the film (which I won’t divulge) was also disappointing, veering towards a celebration of consumerism.
This would be perfect family entertainment if the script wasn’t tarnished with a generous sprinkling of expletives. I’m sure that your kids won’t be surprised to hear such language; it’s what the players on an online game are apt to utter.
Overall, the film is a positive and pleasant diversion that prioritizes doing good over blowing things up. Some days that’s all you need for a good time at the movies.
Halo and Pitchfork Rating:
Three halos: A good-natured film about the joy of positive creativity and discovery.
One pitchfork: Above average casual swearing for a family film.
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Rev. Bruce Batchelor-Glader
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