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MOVIES: Free Guy - Review

Free Guy is the latest Ryan Reynolds action comedy, and that alone tells you everything that you need to expect from the man who’s regained popularity in the wake of Deadpool, a hard-R superhero comedy that takes self-awareness to the extreme. It’s something that Reynolds has never quite been able to escape since and with Free Guy it’s very much more of the same: a movie about the evils of a corporation made by a big corporation (make no mistake, Disney are very much evil, very much won’t pay the writers responsible for the creation of their beloved characters what they deserve), and a movie about how we all need to be free of their grasp. No wonder that it feels so toothless – reminding you of Disney’s crowning moments of pop-culture at every turn, in a way not unlike the terrible Space Jam: A New Legacy, that aired earlier this year – Free Guy may have been in the works before Disney’s takeover of Fox but it very much plays out like a Disney movie – safe, forgettable, and entirely predictable – you’ll know exactly what’s going to happen from the moment the film starts.

Which would normally be okay if the action was fun but the action here is – as with every other Reynolds movie, a generic CGI-fest with little creativity or thought put into it. The film itself sets itself up as a video game character – an NPC – who becomes self-aware and breaks free from the confines of video games in favour of developing a personality – and uses clever tropes that gamers will be familiar with, winks and nudges to a Grand Theft Auto type world where anything is possible – provided of course, you’re an actual human and not a game character. Free Guy cribs from The Lego Movie almost to the letter in the opening statement and beat-for-beat plot points are re-enacted here, it’s almost to the point where if someone made a live-action version of The Lego Movie, it wouldn’t look far too off what we have here. But whilst that film has a surprising amount of heart for a toy commercial – Reynolds is too smug, too self-aware to make any kind of believable moments stand. You want him to journey from a loser to a hero – one of the few characters in a video game world who exists by being kind rather than killing people out of hand – but this journey is unconvincing because well, he’s not a character – he’s Ryan Reynolds. You know he’s going to do exactly what he ends up doing in the movie long before it even happens – and it just feels like he’s going through the motions. At least comedians try new material each time they go onto a new tour rather than playing out the greatest hits – but Reynolds has been unable to escape the success of Deadpool.

The supporting cast are thin on the ground. Joe Keery and Jodie Comer have next to zero chemistry, though Comer tries – it doesn’t help that we rarely see them together throughout the film – Reynolds has more chemistry with his characters’ best friend a security guard named Buddy, played by Lil Rel Howery, than anyone else in the movie. Taika Waititi is a delight as an evil video game company CEO – cartoonishly insulting and not really posing much of a threat. There’s no real stakes in this movie that you know the characters won’t be able to overcome, and as a result – it’s quickly disposable light-hearted fair rather than something more exciting, say, like The Suicide Squad, which premiered last week. At least Free Guy has a thin sense of humour – a couple of the jokes are fun, but there’s nothing that I’d remember after the movie.

In fact – and this is the biggest problem with Free Guy, as it is with Space Jam: A New Legacy, the only thing that I’ll remember about this movie is its groan-worthy cameos, which I won’t spoil here. These cameos and references detract valuable time from what could be spend in propping up the characters involved in the film or establishing the stakes and sense of threat better to make it feel more real – because I never once felt like anyone of these characters was in any danger. And then Free Guy does the worst thing that it could do with a reference to another product (which I won't spoil here): it makes me wish I’d just stayed at home and watched that instead.

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