What to Watch Verdict
'Free Guy' is absolutely nothing you expect but everything you'll love. It's a kind, funny, delight of a film.
🎮 A surprisingly heartfelt story.
🎮 Laughs at itself at all the right moments.
🎮 Extremely well used cameo moments.
🎮 A true joy of a movie.
🎮 There are two ~moments~ at the end of the movie. One is very cheeseball and will miss the mark for some. The other is very cheeseball but is delightful.
What if, when presented with the option to be whoever or whatever we wanted to be, we chose to be kind? Watching the trailers for the film, you wouldn't expect that to be a key premise of Free Guy. (At least not of his own volition.) And yet, here this weird, wonderful movie is not giving one damn about our expectations. Free Guy has the nerve to be kind in a world full of people just fighting to get theirs. Then it has the audacity to be freakin' hilarious on top of it all.
We start with Guy (Ryan Reynolds) going about his morning routine. There's a moment of concern that it'll simply be The Lego Movie (which is great) based in reality and featuring a different star, but that's not what's going on here. Guy and his best friend Buddy (Lil Rel Howery) get their coffee, they go on their morning walk to work, and then they proceed to get robbed multiple times throughout the day. Free City — their home — is made up of two types of people: folks who wear sunglasses, and those who don't. The people with the sunglasses get to do all sorts of nifty things, like blow up buildings, rob banks, beat up old ladies, and romance the Bombshell. If it kinda sounds like they're running around in Grand Theft Auto, you're warmer than you think.
Guy's life is turned on its side when he meets Millie (Jodie Comer). Guy, as you may have guessed, is not a sunglass person. Millie, on the other hand, is. Guy's pursuit of her makes up a not insignificant portion of the first act of the film, but it's what he does with his time that makes Free Guy refreshing. When given the challenge to level up by collecting items and completing challenges by way of his new sunglasses, Guy doesn't go the route the rest of the world has with its death and destruction and theft. Instead, Guy decides he's going to help people. And help them he does!
Various quests will take Guy to unknown ends of the Earth. His fight to level up is met with capable action scenes coupled with a healthy dose of slapstick comedy. Reynolds is as funny as you'd expect, but this character proves that he doesn't need the cynical, sometimes bitter humor he's come to be known for to get a hearty laugh. Some traditional Reynolds does come out when Guy finds himself at his lowest point, but it serves the story well and will keep you rolling. Reynolds isn't alone in his comedy chops here, either. Taika Waititi's Antoine will grate on some, but I found him to be the exact right amount of over-the-top that we've come to expect from Waititi's on-screen characters. At this point, I don't think Lil Rel Howery is capable of not being funny, and Jodie Comer, Joe Keery and Utkarsh Ambudkar all seem to be having a blast with their characters.
Cameos and nostalgia get a bad wrap — especially in movies of Free Guy's nature — but every nostalgia beat hits home here, and the cameos are all perfectly placed. I can't tell you the last time my hands were clapping before my brain told them "you're in a theater!" And I most certainly can't tell you a time when I looked back on a reaction to a scene and genuinely don't remember if I cheered aloud or not. The third act of Free Guy is something really special, and if it hits you the same way it hit me you are going to have one hell of a time at the movies.
At the end of the day Free Guy succeeds both as a film and as the kind of escapism the world needs right now. What if we chose to be kind? It's a pipe dream, to be sure. As a cynic, I can imagine how some folks are reading this gushing review. But do yourself a favor and take some time to go check this one out if movie theaters are something you're comfortable with right now. It's exactly what my soul needed. Maybe it'll be what yours needs, too.
Free Guy is available to stream in the US and UK now on Disney Plus.
Amelia is an entertainment Streaming Editor at IGN, which means she spends a lot of time analyzing and editing stories on things like Loki, Peacemaker, and The Witcher. In addition to her features and editorial work, she’s also a member of both the Television Critics Association and Critics Choice. A deep love of film and television has kept her happily in the entertainment industry for 7 years.