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Review: Despite missteps, 'Free Guy' is a funny, entertaining trip back to the theater

Jodie Comer, left, and Ryan Reynolds are seen in a scene from 20th Century Studios' "Free Guy," which debuts in theaters on Friday.

Jodie Comer, left, and Ryan Reynolds are seen in a scene from 20th Century Studios' "Free Guy," which debuts in theaters on Friday. (20th Century Studios)



Estimated read time: 6-7 minutes

FREE CITY — Summer is winding down, and the last of the summer movie blockbusters are being released.

There haven't been many this year considering COVID-19 has pushed many films to later dates, or production companies are releasing the titles in the theaters and on streaming services on the same day. But 20th Century Fox has decided to buck that trend and release their big-budget action comedy "Free Guy" in theaters.

The film stars Ryan Reynolds as a non-player character, or NPC, in a brutal open-world video game called "Free City." While there were a few things in the film that I didn't really jive with, overall I had a good time and will likely watch it again.

Here are a few reasons I think "Free Guy" is worth a watch, and couple of reasons you may want to avoid it:

Why the movie is a gamer

The cast is strong

We all know Reynolds is the star of "Free Guy," and like always he's charming and funny.

Even if you don't like Reynolds or his movies, it's hard to deny his charisma. While I don't like all of his films, I am a fan of the actor and I love him in this kind of role. His character's innocence and constant optimism are often hilarious and make for some great jokes. It's hard to imagine many other people playing the role of Guy much better than Reynolds.

While Reynolds is fun to watch, he's not the only one who makes "Free Guy" a fun trip to the theater. Jodie Comer may not be a well-known name right now — at least for those who have not seen the series "Killing Eve" — but she soon will be with multiple notable projects she has coming up. She acts opposite Reynolds in this film and does a great job in both her role as the hard-nosed video game version of her character and the nerdy and vulnerable real-world version of her character.

Other noteworthy performances come from the always funny Taika Waititi as an egotistical corporate shark and Utkarsh Ambudkar as his kiss-up employee.

But my favorite performance comes from Joe Keery, who you may know as Steve Harrington from "Stranger Things." Keery puts in a great performance that is both funny and endearing. He's the best part of this movie.

The cameos are hilarious

This one is in connection with the cast, but "Free Guy" is chock-full of cameos. It's like I was watching a "Muppets" movie and not a Reynolds vehicle. I'm not going to ruin anything for you because the surprise is the best part of these cameos, and I suggest you avoid any spoilers about it if you plan on seeing it.

There's actually a story

A lot of movies these days give up story to show off more spectacle. I'm a sucker for a good story, and I actually got into the story of "Free Guy."

It's not perfectly constructed, but director Shawn Levy and the film's writers actually got me invested in the characters and what was at stake both inside and outside of the game.

Again, in an effort to not give away any spoilers I won't say much about the story itself, but know that it's more thought out and put together than many of the big-budget action flicks coming out these days.

The world-building is thorough

For those who have read my reviews before: You already know how much I love world-building. "Free Guy" mostly takes place inside the video game world of "Free City," and I loved the design of the ultra-violent metropolis.

It takes you a minute to realize, but you the "massive" city is only a handful of city blocks just like in a video game. You get to know the area and recognize where you are. But in addition to the skyscrapers and bodegas, you also have crashing helicopters, ziplining thieves and random explosions around every corner. The designers of the film made it feel like an open-world video game, and that made the film that much more engrossing.

Why the movie is a noob

It often feels forced

Overall, the jokes landed in "Free Guy" and I was laughing out loud on more than one occasion. But the movie falls victim to the same sin I think so many movies do: It doesn't know when to call it quits.

Comedy is all about timing and knowing when a joke or a bit has run its course. While Reynolds's character may be self-aware, some of the jokes are not self-aware of when they've gone on too long.

It's hard to give specific examples without giving away spoilers or gags, but if you see the film I think you'll see what I mean. There are two jokes in particular that I think if they had ended about 20 seconds earlier would have been brilliant. Since they didn't, however, the jokes and bits devolve into gross humor and easy jokes that come off as lazy and not funny.

This does not happen all the time, but there are moments where the timing is off and makes an otherwise funny joke become incredibly unfunny.

What parents should know

"Free Guy" is rated PG-13, and I wouldn't be surprised if there is an R-rated cut that exists. There is a fair amount of profanity, crude humor and plenty of violence.

The violence is consistent but may feel a little different because you know they are video game characters and will respawn. Nonetheless, there is a lot of killing and mayhem.

As for the crude humor, not every joke is a gross-out joke but plenty exist in the film. These are my least favorite jokes as I don't think they're very clever, but there were less of these than the well-thought-out and clever jokes.

The language is about on par with many other PG-13 movies. It's more than your typical Marvel movie but similar to something like a "Fast and Furious" movie.

Is it worth watching?

Overall, the movie had its issues, and I think it could have been even funnier with some better timing and less crude humor, but when the credits rolled I had a good time.

There is enough of the good stuff to outweigh the bad stuff, and I enjoyed seeing this one in the theater.

I don't think this is good for a night out with the family, but it could be a fun date night. And depending on your kids' ages and maturity level, "Free Guy" could be a fun outing with your teenagers.

"Free Guy" is rated PG-13 for strong fantasy violence throughout, language and crude/suggestive references.


About the Author: John Clyde

John has grown up around movies and annoys friends and family with his movie facts and knowledge. He also has a passion for sports and pretty much anything awesome, and it just so happens, that these are the three things he writes about. To read more of his articles, visit John's KSL.com author page.

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