Sunday, August 15, 2021

Free Guy

I had lots of fun watching this movie, an action-comedy about a non-player character (NPC) in an online game who develops into the world's first artificial intelligence life form. It stars Ryan Reynolds, of Deadpool fame, as a guy literally named Guy who realizes that there could be more to life than ducking behind the counter during a bank robbery, when he notices the girl of his dreams walking down the street. The trouble is, she's one of the "sunglasses people," the heroes of this world, who are above paltry things like the law or talking to non-sunglasses people like him. Nevertheless, he perseveres, acquiring sunglasses (which reveal all kinds of ways of collecting points in the game) and leveling up until she starts to notice him – and fall in love with him.

Only, she's a real-world person who plays the game because she suspects the game manufacturer stole code from her and she's looking for the evidence, and when the bad guy realizes what she's up to, he starts messing with Guy's world in an attempt to stop her. The result is a wild, weird, reality-hopping, action-packed adventure that hits an unusual range of emotional notes for its type of movie.

Naturally, it excels in the kind of humor that Ryan Reynolds specializes in – like a scene of slow-motion carnage that his character watches with a dreamy expression and a romantic pop song playing in his imagination, which you see multiple times in the Deadpool franchise. Also there's a scene in which Guy and the girl are speeding down a street while an unseen force hurls cars, trees and buildings at them, which should remind anyone who saw it of R.I.P.D. (Edit: Channing Tatum has a scene that also plays to the type established for him by such films as Magic Mike and Hail, Caesar.) The characters are an entertaining ensemble, including a certain Dude who is basically a physically pumped but mentally cracked copy of Guy. The baddie is played by Taika Waititi, the multiple-award-winning actor-writer-director of such movies as Thor: Ragnarok, Boy, What We Do in the Shadows and Jojo Rabbit, who does an excellent job of making you want to punch him in the face.

The other cast members are effective if not particularly well known to me, other than a minor part for Channing Tatum, some celebrity cameos and some A-list actors in the voice cast. The romantic leads in the real world are played by Jodie Comer and Joe Keery, both known for roles in things I haven't seen such as Killing Eve and Stranger Things. I thought they were all good, and other than an over-indulgent epilog I think the story shaped up pretty well, with tons of crazy imagery and a suspenseful, explosive climax. It made me laugh out loud several times, got me slightly choked up a couple times (I swear, at least one of those moments was because of the suspense) and of course, the inappropriateness of some of the humor was not lost on me, but is (once again) very much in keeping with Ryan Reynolds' creative style.

Three Scenes That Made It For Me: (1) You could almost pick any scene of Waititi being a terrible boss, but I got a special kick out of the moment where he tries to jump up from lying on the floor, fails twice, then scrambles to his feet and gives a little hop to cover for it. (2) The sequence in which the whole internet turns to watch the live stream of Guy's climactic run off the edge of the world he knows, and you sense that everyone is rooting for him. (3) Guy kisses Molotovgirl in the park. The music rises and then, in mid-kiss, the scene cuts to Millie in her apartment, musicless, watching the scene on her screen, then cuts back to the music and everything. I'd like to count as part of this scene the sequel kiss in which it all comes back to Guy in the form of a visible explosion of lines of programming. And maybe an honorable mention would have to go to the scene in which Millie realizes she let an AI character kiss her (as, up to that moment, she assumed Guy was another gamer). "Oh, he found the button all right" is one of the biggest laugh-lines in the flick.

I'd better cut myself off there, because several other honorable mentions are lining up. On the way out of the theater tonight, I overheard a guy saying he thought the movie was stupid. But the woman he was with disagreed, and I'm with her. I think it holds up as a visual feast, an emotionally engaging adventure and a vehicle for Ryan Reynolds' particular style of comedy. And it's just plain fun.

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