This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Jack Jankauskas’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
When Free Guy was first announced I was initially very excited about it because I kept hearing about how much it took inspiration from The Truman Show. The title itself was even an indication to this with Free Guy being a play on words on Truman, which more importantly is in itself a play on words on True Man. Then we eventually got the trailer and my interest in the film pretty much vanished. It looked nothing more than your typical CGI filled blockbuster comedy made today, with Ryan Reynolds just being Ryan Reynolds. But now that I have seen the film, I can see where all that initial talk about it being inspired by The Truman Show came from (I'm sorry, I'm going to compare this to The Truman Show a lot, it being one of my favorite films).
So with that said, the film is pretty much a straight up replica of the story of The Truman Show. From having the lead character live the same daily life to slowly realize the world he lives in is fake due to falling in love with someone he wasn't supposed to fall in love with, to having a godlike figure who controls this world that brings joy to millions of people around the globe, right down to the climax of the film taking place at the sea with an audience watching their screens on the edge of their seat as the lead character risks his life to escape the life that was made for him. The inspirations are extremely blatant. I don't consider this a bad thing though. In fact quite the contrary AS LONG as the film is able to communicate something new with the ideas and inspirations. Free Guy is somewhat able to, obviously it being based inside a video game instead of a TV set. This being the case it's able to present a world that's in chaos for the audience, but for the characters within the world it's their everyday life. This is a fresh reimagining, since The Truman Show instead presented us a world of paradise in the skin of the real world. And while I still much prefer the view The Truman Show gave us, I can at least respect Free Guy for giving us a different (albeit extremely goofy) view. That's the biggest compliment I can give this film, because otherwise it is basically what I expected out of it based on the trailers.
The climax as I mentioned before, I didn't think was very good in particular. Taika Waititi gives such an over the top performance that he feels as much as an artificial cartoon as the characters in the videogame world (he's a joke compared to Ed Harris in The Truman Show), while Ryan Reynolds has a boss battle with a bulky version of himself of which serves no purpose other than to remind us that Disney owns everything now. I realized this straight away when Ryan Reynolds pulls out the Captain America shield with the Avengers theme kicking in. I was like "Oh I bet he's going to pull out a lightsaber next". Sure enough that's exactly what happened, while I just sat there groaning throughout the whole thing. It was during this portion of the film that gave me the impression that Free Guy is more of a spoof of The Truman Show rather than a proper reinterpretation of it. I don't hate that idea, especially since as a spoof it can be quite funny (a lot of it coming from Ryan Reynolds interactions with other characters), but at the same time I do find it extremely frustrating since the film prior to final act laid out potentially interesting ideas to pay off, but it never did. Even Guy's (Ryan Reynolds) character arc is lessened at the end, serving an underdeveloped romance set inside the real world more than anything else.
I also noticed a massive plot hole while watching the film. It regards the kiss that brings back Guy's memory after it got wiped, a pivotal moment in the film I may remind you. The scene bothers me because earlier in the film it was clearly established that there wasn't a button to kiss other characters in the game after Guy kissed Jodie Comer's character (the only reason Guy could do it was because he was an NPC, which makes perfect sense). So as for how Jodie Comer's character could do it, it's never explained. The only explanation I could give is that the writers forgot, which certainly isn't a good sign if that is the case.
I would've hoped Free Guy had something new and interesting to say, but in the end it just failed to give me many reasons to take it seriously. From its product placements, to its excessive use of popular gaming Youtubers, there's a lot about this film that makes it look as if it was trying to appeal more to the gaming community rather than trying to be a good film. Again, it certainly had the potential to given it's inspirations, but to my disappointment it decided to take the more profitable route.