MickeyBlog Movie Review: Free Guy
What if video game NPCs had feelings and thoughts about the world in which they live?
That’s the elevator pitch for a former Fox project that wound up in Disney’s hands…and turns out all the better for the transition.
Here’s my review of Free Guy, which mines nonsensical videogame escapism for maximum effect.
The Story of Free Guy
Free Guy undeniably takes inspiration from Grand Theft Auto, Fortnite, and a slew of other games.
However, I come at the film from a different approach. I’m obsessive about the Bioshock franchise, but I don’t play the games like most do.
I play games as a Paladin, saving the Little Sisters rather than harvesting them.
Similarly, Grand Theft Auto and I never paired well because I don’t enjoy brutalizing NPCs. It’s just never sat right with me.
This movie feels like someone watched me play and had an idea for a story.
The lead character, the blandly named Guy, lacks any sort of detail. He lives in an all-white apartment and orders the same coffee each morning.
Then, he goes to his job at the bank, where he gets robbed repeatedly. Therein lies the twist. Guy’s absence of specificity stems from the fact that he’s an NPC.
These non-playable characters in video games do the same thing all day and all night because that’s all they’re programmed to do.
Meanwhile, humans enter this realm via their avatars and wreak havoc, destroying everything in sight to unlock achievements and complete quests.
Basically, Guy and his cohorts live in Murdertown, and they are NOT the perpetrators.
They feel like everyone in Bartertown who isn’t Master Blaster, so to speak.
One fateful morning, Guy suddenly develops conscious thought and tries to take the sunglasses from an avatar.
Suddenly, the NPC is the one causing the violence, albeit accidentally. At this point, he wears the sunglasses, which reveal the in-game quests.
Guy becomes an accidental player in his own videogame, thereby triggering plenty of hysterical action hijinks.
The Characters of Free Guy
While Guy’s name is in the title, I would argue that the story centers on Molotov Girl, aka Millie Rusk.
— Free Guy (@FreeGuyMovie) August 17, 2021
A failed programmer, Millie spends her days inside the world of the videogame Free City.
She’s searching for proof that the game developer, Antwan, stole her work and put it in the game. If she can prove this, she’ll make millions.
The fascinating aspect of Millie’s story is that she doesn’t seem to care about the money inasmuch as proving that her ideas were sound.
Millie dreams of creating artificial intelligence, characters capable of individual thought. You can see where this is going.
Guy represents the pinnacle of computer AI, the first sentient artificial being. He is far too clueless and innocent to know this, though.
For whatever reason, he encounters Molotov Girl and feels drawn to her.
Meanwhile, Millie mistakes Guy for a clueless gamer, the kind who lives in their parents’ basement and is terrible at talking to women.
Most of the story takes place within Free City and involves Guy exploring his impossible, uber-violent world.
There, he spends his time with his best friend, Buddy, who is also ill-defined because this game is horribly programmed. But, of course, that’s part of the joke.
We also have a Matrix situation with the storytelling, as the “real” world comes into play as well.
Millie’s ex-partner, Keys, works for Antwan. So, it’s also a bit like the other recent videogame adaptation, Ready Player One.
Most of the story takes place within the “game,” but essential plot developments happen in the real world, too.
Joe Keery is Keys.👨🏻💻
— Free Guy (@FreeGuyMovie) July 26, 2021
As for Antwan, he’s a total putz. So, it’s impossible to believe anything but that he’s stolen Millie’s ideas.
Still, actor/director Taika Waititi is having the time of his life in this role, which makes it work.
My Review of Free Guy
I’ve been a gamer since I was a little kid, which makes movies like Ready Player One and Free Guy my wheelhouse.
I’ve suspected since the first teaser that I would love Free Guy because it’s my kind of storytelling. It combines satire and cartoon violence quite well.
To wit, a montage involves Guy “leveling up” by learning how to avoid the constant death that surrounds him as an NPC.
Grenades explode regularly, car chases are ubiquitous, and everyone in town is trying to shoot somebody.
As an NPC, Guy is functionally invincible, as he wakes up again each morning after his death. So, there’s even a bit of Groundhog Day thrown in for good measure.
I’ve compared Free Guy to several excellent movies, which establishes the baseline for how I feel about it.
This film is far from perfect, especially when it introduces influencers like Ninja and Pokimane to spout dialogue. They’re…not actors, and it shows.
Also, the story lacks any sort of significant surprises. Instead, free Guy is precisely what its advertising indicates, which I find oddly refreshing.
Still, the lack of originality during the film will frustrate some. I don’t care, though. I like when a film delivers on its elevator pitch.
To wit, I thought that Tag and Blockers were both highly entertaining films because they didn’t overreach.
Free Guy celebrates the life of the lonely gamer while simultaneously lampooning it.
Similarly, videogame cliches abound, and they get psychoanalyzed hilariously.
If you’ve ever played a violent video game, you’ve had many of these thoughts. Free Guy mines them for big laughs.
One of my favorite parts of rewatching Free Guy has almost nothing to do with the main action.
Instead, I love watching the background sight gags, which are plentiful and produce big belly laughs.
This movie was made by people who love and admire video games and can distill the best parts down to their essence.
There’s something innately hilarious about people with rocket launchers aggressively walking down the street.
Conversely, the idea that somebody just walks around with their hands in the air in anticipation of getting robbed is equally funny.
The two jokes pair together perfectly with a violent criminal and a resigned NPC stuck in a constant loop.
Free Guy is the rare movie that you can play for a group of 10 people of various age groups. Each one will find something entertaining about it.
Older people will relish the cartoon violence, kids will crack up at the avatars’ funny walks and dances, and everyone will enjoy Guy’s maturation.
This isn’t an A+ movie that’s a candidate for Best Picture. Instead, it is popcorn cinema Disney has done exceptionally well, and I will be there on opening night for the sequel.
I give Free Guy an A-, but it’ll probably wind up being one of the 2021 movies that I rewatch the most.
I highly recommend it to anyone in need of a good laugh.
PS: The movie works better because it’s a Disney product. I don’t want to spoil anything, but you’ll understand when you notice two very specific Disney usages toward the end.