Free Guy First Reviews: The Biggest Surprise of the Summer

Critics say the Ryan Reynolds-powered video game meta-comedy will appeal to gamers and non-gamers alike, thanks to big laughs, a big heart, and some unforgettable cameos.

by | August 5, 2021 | Comments

Ryan Reynolds stars in Free Guy, a movie about a video game character who suddenly breaks from his expected monotony to reach his full potential. And as it turns out, it’s also a movie that breaks from expectations to reach its full potential. That’s the consensus from the surprisingly very positive reviews from the new action-comedy, which hits theaters on August 13.

While familiar in its premise and the latest movie to capitalize on a studio’s willingness to mash up famous pop culture IP, Free Guy is said to be a lot of fun, with tons of action, laughs, and heart, plus a bunch of surprises that critics aren’t divulging. The only place where reviews really disagree, though, is in where they land on Taika Waititi’s scene-chewing villainous role.

Here’s what critics are saying about Free Guy:

Is Free Guy more than it seems?

Free Guy is way better than you may have been expecting — in fact, it’s absolutely joyful.” – Germain Lussier,

“A very pleasant surprise.” – Mark Cassidy,

Free Guy is surprisingly far more complex than expected.” – Robert Daniels, The Playlist

“I never expected to see a film that hilariously deals with philosophical conundrums the way The Good Place used to.” – Sherin Nicole,

“One of the summer’s bigger surprises.” – Joey Magidson, Awards Radar

How does it compare to other video game movies?

“The best-ever video-game movie.” – Ian Sandwell, Digital Spy

“One of the best video game movies that Hollywood has managed to churn out.” – Hoai-Tran Bui, Slashfilm

“[One] of the best video game-themed movies in recent memory.” – Germain Lussier,

Free Guy

(Photo by 20th Century Studios)

Will it appeal to gamers?

“It actually understands what makes video games tick.” – Hoai-Tran Bui, Slashfilm

“There are numerous Easter eggs for gamers to find in the background details and, crucially, it’s done with love for the culture, rather than any cynicism.” – Ian Sandwell, Digital Spy

“Very clearly a movie aimed at young gamers… and for a film aimed at gamers, it seems pretty oblivious to what that audience actually wants in a game.” – Rob Hunter, Film School Rejects

“When branching off the core story and trying to bring in certain elements, gamers may be less impressed with some of the gag choices.” – Aaron Neuwirth, We Live Entertainment

What about non-gamers?

“While it’s very respectful and true to gaming culture, it’s one of those movies that almost anyone could watch and find enjoyment in.” – Germain Lussier,

“If you’re not into video games, I wouldn’t say that’s a hurdle for Free Guy any more than not being into Lego is a hurdle for The Lego Movie.” – Matt Goldberg, Collider

Free Guy is fun and visually stunning enough to hold the interest of anyone looking for a literal escape to something far away from the real world.” – Catherine Springer, AwardsWatch

Free Guy is nothing if not a movie that wins you over in spite of your better judgment and best defenses.” – David Ehrlich, IndieWire

Free Guy

(Photo by 20th Century Studios)

How is the action?

“The film is loaded with wall-to-wall action, albeit the cartoonish kind that makes this solid family entertainment.” – Chris Bumbray, JoBlo

“The action is used not just to entertain, but to develop characters, which in turn endears them to the audience.” – Germain Lussier,

And the visuals?

“The world-building is incredible… The set design and VFX are impeccable and engaging.” – Yolanda Machado, Nerdist

“They’re just flashy enough to make the world of Free City seem both fun to live in and kind of real.” – Germain Lussier,

What about the script?

“Incredibly uplifting.” – Matt Goldberg, Collider

“However predictable, the journey to get there makes up for it by being akin to a rocket ship.” – Germain Lussier,

“So much energy has been poured into the creation of Free City that the plot suffered as a result.” – Ian Sandwell, Digital Spy

“If it sounds complicated, plot-wise, that’s because it is, overly so, to the point that the film has to stop a couple of times to explain itself to some extent, although certain plot points remain unexplained, perhaps because the credited screenwriters could not remember the narrative point and/or lost the cocktail napkin on which the script was originally jotted down upon.” – Peter Martin, Screen Anarchy

Free Guy is the unfortunate example that fails to add anything new… It neglects to build character and narrative of its own.” – Rob Hunter, Film School Rejects

Free Guy

(Photo by 20th Century Studios)

Is it funny?

“One of the funniest movies of the year.” – Robert Daniels, The Playlist

“Hilarious thanks to a few laugh-out-loud surprises courtesy of the merger between 20th Century Studios and the Walt Disney Company.” – Joey Morona, Cleveland Plain Dealer

But does it have heart?

“It really believes in itself…there’s a real, beating heart beneath all that plastic packaging of Free Guy” – Hoai-Tran Bui, Slashfilm

“Will make your heart swell and burst.” – Joey Morona, Cleveland Plain Dealer

Does the romance work?

“They drop the ball a bit with the romantic elements that crop up, but it’s not the main focus, so that’s easy to forgive.” – Joey Magidson, Awards Radar

“The love story that is baked somewhere in all of this…gets serious short shrift.” – Catherine Springer, AwardsWatch

How is the pacing?

“The film benefits from a terrific sense of pace, being one of the few recent action films that’s not a bloated two hours plus.” – Chris Bumbray, JoBlo

“Pacing that keeps you engaged throughout the full two hours.” – Sherin Nicole,

“It takes a good half-hour to really find its feet. But, unlike many high-concept blockbusters, Free Guy actually improves as it unfolds.” – James Marsh, South China Morning Post

“The movie begins to drag ever so slightly around the 80-minute mark.” – Mark Cassidy,

Free Guy

(Photo by 20th Century Studios)

How is Ryan Reynolds?

“He’s once again riffing on the same likable, wise-cracking character he’s built a career on, but it works.” – Rob Hunter, Film School Rejects

“As Guy, Ryan Reynolds is basically just Ryan Reynolds. That’s not a bad thing, he’s great…it works perfectly for the character.” – Germain Lussier,

“There aren’t many other actors who can pull off this kind of performance, and that’s what I’ve grown to enjoy in watching Reynolds over the years.” – Danielle Solzman, Solzy at the Movies

“You get the sense that Ryan Reynolds has never had more fun.” – Robert Daniels, The Playlist

“Reynolds’ charisma shines through to make Guy a hero we can all get behind.” – Ian Sandwell, Digital Spy

“His performance as Guy is locked into an ultra-sincere easy mode that feels like the polar opposite of his Deadpool snark even though it clearly stems from the same place.” – David Ehrlich, IndieWire

“[It’s] his best role since Deadpool.” – James Marsh, South China Morning Post

What about Jodie Comer?

“Comer, a bad-ass in her own rights, is relatable and endearing as Molotovgirl/Millie. She matches Reynolds beat for beat.” – Yolanda Machado, Nerdist

“The movie’s Trojan horse and unambiguous MVP. So charismatic in each of her roles that it feels like she’s holding the whole film together with both hands.” – David Ehrlich, IndieWire

Free Guy

Ryan Fujitani

And Taika Waititi?

“Laugh-out-loud hilarious.” – Germain Lussier,

“Taika Waititi frequently steals the show…always hilarious.” – Ian Sandwell, Digital Spy

“Annoying as well as funny.” – Joey Magidson, Awards Radar

“The amount of leeway afforded to Waititi means getting a variety of great one-liners.” – Aaron Neuwirth, We Live Entertainment

“It appears that Levy simply let him run wild. The result is a loud, unfunny brake-squeal every time Waititi starts riffing and ranting.” – Rob Hunter, Film School Rejects

“It’s fascinating to watch Taika in action as a bad guy…What a cinematic villain he is!” – Danielle Solzman, Solzy at the Movies

“Levy lets Waititi roam free, free to improvise many of his scenes, which are painful to watch.” – Catherine Springer, AwardsWatch

“The weak link…more irritating than entertaining.” – Mark Cassidy,

How are the cameos?

“Your brains are not prepared for the cameos. Do not let anyone spoil them for you.” – Sherin Nicole,

“When it comes to one of the cameos: I was clapping at the same time I was falling out of my seat from pure joy.” – Danielle Solzman, Solzy at the Movies

“Some of the most memorable cameo appearances in recent memory.” – James Marsh, South China Morning Post

“A third-act surprise appearance by a certain magical actor is a welcome show-stopper.” – Hoai-Tran Bui, Slashfilm

Free Guy

(Photo by 20th Century Studios)

Is there too much going on?

“Much like the recent Space Jam: A New Legacy, Free Guy throws a lot of stuff at the wall, but unlike Warner Bros.’ soulless slog, most of it actually sticks.” – Mark Cassidy,

“Unlike Space Jam, another sensory overload brimming with IP love, it never feels tacky or put on.” – Robert Daniels, The Playlist

“Ironically for a film about a background player stepping onto center stage, the best is often happening in the background.” – Rob Hunter, Film School Rejects

But does it stick the landing?

“Two moments during the climax are as crowd-pleasing as anything you’ll see this year, blockbuster-wise.” – Joey Magidson, Awards Radar

“The film’s final act is a surprise-filled cornucopia — a cathartic cacophony of satisfying payoffs both narratively and emotionally that brings everything together beautifully.” – Germain Lussier,

“An absolute banger of a finale that should leave big sloppy grins on all but the most joyless of faces.” – Mark Cassidy,

“The conclusion, through a couple, admittedly, hilarious cameos and pop culture references, Levy succumbs to the same IP-driven storytelling [it] once lamented.” – Robert Daniels, The Playlist

Free Guy

Ryan Fujitani

Are there any other major problems?

Free Guy is an irresistibly good time until the moment you’re confronted with the potential consequences of enjoying it.” – David Ehrlich, IndieWire

“Buddy is the Black best friend, a trope the movie smartly lampoons. But he’s also frustratingly close to being a magical Negro.” – Robert Daniels, The Playlist

“One can’t help but feel that the PG-13 rating did somewhat prevent [the movie] from taking full advantage of the concept.” – Mark Cassidy,

“It bogs down every time we leave Guy to spend time with people in the real world…very little of it is interesting.” – Rob Hunter, Film School Rejects

Will it hold up to repeat viewings?

“Once Free Guy is over, you immediately want to play it again.” – Matt Goldberg, Collider

“There’s sure to be plenty to be discovered on repeat viewings, even if we’re not quite sure that Free Guy will prove as entertaining the second time around.” – Ian Sandwell, Digital Spy

“If you pop your quarter in for a single play you’ll get your money’s worth here.” – Rob Hunter, Film School Rejects

Free Guy is in theaters on Friday August 13, 2021.

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