‘Free Guy’ Review: Don’t Hate the Player

One day you’re just heading to your job at the bank, preparing for its daily spate of robberies, and the next you find out that you’re a side character in a video game. Tough break.

That’s the scenario in which Guy (Ryan Reynolds) finds himself in the perky though predictable new adventure-comedy “Free Guy,” directed by Shawn Levy. Guy is comfortable with his monotonous life in the game Free City until he meets a player named Millie (Jodie Comer), a coder who is looking for proof that Antwan (Taika Waititi), the money-hungry mogul behind the game’s virtual world, stole her code. With help from her friend and partner Keys (Joe Keery), Millie attempts a code heist with a leveled-up Guy, who has become a viral hero in the gamersphere.

“Free Guy” is as agreeable as its main actor; Reynolds taps into his endless well of nice-guy charisma to deliver an adorable brand of humor that feels like “Deadpool” Lite. And the various comic-relief characters (Lil Rel Howery as Guy’s clueless best friend, Waititi as the toxic boss) and cameos (a priceless Channing Tatum and a Marvel surprise) make for a perfectly enjoyable experience.

But innovative? Not so much. Conceptually, “Free Guy” recalls a PG-13 version of “Westworld” (fewer stabbings, no sex). The interesting existential tidbits about agency, morality and artificial intelligence play second string to the straw-man argument about the baseness of consumerism. The jokes, too, feel neatly packaged; they’re sometimes funny, but never surprising.

It’s no spoiler to say that art wins over capitalism, the phoned-in romantic subplot is resolved and everyone’s happy in the end. “Free Guy” has charm, but there’s not much memorable in the same old quest, same old boss fight, then game over.

Free Guy
Rated PG-13. Running time: 1 hour 55 minutes. In theaters.

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