"Free Guy" Talkback (Spoilers)

Fone Bone

Matt Zimmer
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Free Guy

What am I going to talk about first? The nifty high-concept? Ryan Reynolds's hilarious performance as Dude? The shameless plugs for Marvel and Star Wars? The trippy visual effects? The comedy?

No, I think the first thing I need to talk about is the unique narrative structure. It is very modern, and unlike any other narrative structure I have ever seen for a big-budget popcorn movie. I was very interested and impressed with it because it could have been considered a risk on a different movie.

Normally in a movie with a high-concept like this, there is a ton of narrative exposition at the beginning to lay out the rules of the Universe (See Ready Player One for a recent example). Guy does some intro narration at first, but none of it tells us anything about what is going on. Less common is the tack taken by movies like The Truman Show (whose high-concept was in reality a badly kept secret), but it's played as a surprise reveal in the film itself. This movie had the stones to go even further than that. The actual concept of what is going on isn't laid out in the movie as it's happening or as a surprise reveal. The producers seem to take it as a matter of fact that the viewer has either seen a trailer for the film, or read a synopsis before seeing it. It assumes the viewer is far savvier than any previous type of film I'm seen in the "imaginary world" genre. It assumes the viewer knew what they were getting into even before the film started. I can't tell how this movie would play on an airline flight to a person completely fresh to the concept, but the movie is written with the understanding that audiences knew what's happening at the beginning of the movie, even if Guy doesn't. Sort of a risk, and I haven't seen any trailers, although I did see TV spots, and I did read the synopses on Movies Anywhere and the Blu-Ray cover, and that was more than enough. It was an unusual way to tell the story, and it worked for me at least. Would it work for everyone? Probably not. But the people this would confuse aren't actually the types of people who would either watch or enjoy a popcorn flick to begin with.

Chris Evans' cameo was great, and his reaction to the Captain America shield was priceless.

Alex Trebek's last onscreen role? I think so.

I was enjoying the movie and was unsurprised Buddy popped up at the end. I thought his death was meaningful, and I love the real-world security guards calling him a hero, but as much pathos as the movie played in that moment (as well as Guy's devastated reactions when Millie tells him he's not real) I knew deep down this was a crowd-pleaser, and Buddy being alive would please everybody. I suspected halfway through the movie this would be the sort of feel-good movie where the heroes get ridiculously, unrealistically happy endings. And I was right.

I like that Guy is the one who breaks up with Millie. She was obviously going to have to do it, and Guy's AI has advanced enough to understand it's not in the cards. But what I love is that he suggests his real feelings must have come from somewhere, which is when she realizes Keys is in love with her. It's a very sweet and romantic notion that Guy tells her his love for her came from his creator and he steps aside so she can seek it out. I thought that was super cool.

The villain Antoine was pretty loathsome. I expected a harsher end for him, but the truth is as despicable as his actions were, legally, they were not actually murderous. I sort of had to settle for the idea that he is facing legal battles and his company is tanking instead. It's not exactly just based on what a monster he is personally, but as far as sociopaths go, he's not an actual murderer, at least not in any legal sense. Am I the only one who thinks it's weird he's played by the director of Thor: Ragnarok? That's weird, right?

I kept wondering where I've seen Joe Keery before so I checked IMDB and he's Steve in Stranger Things. Duh.

I liked it. I liked watching a movie that assumed I already read a synopsis for it. Saves a bit of time on exposition, doesn't it? ****1/2.

Deleted / Extended Scenes:

Three scenes. The first two were better off cut. I think the extended version of the NPC Rally could have actually worked in the film itself. Overall: ***1/2.

Guy And Buddy Hit The Beach:

It's a good meta conversation with a funny background slapstick joke. I can't say why the filmmakers cut it. What I can say is I would have cut it too if I were them. I would not be focusing so heavily on the beach so early in the film. Yeah, it's set-up for its significance, but I don't think that specific thing would have been stronger if it were better set up. It plays better as a surprise as the film is going. ***1/2.

Hot Nuts Gets Blown:

The saucy title for this deleted scene is more interesting than the 20 second deleted scene itself. **1/2.

NPC Rally (Extended):

The gun violence bit still cracks me up. In the extended version of the rally more of the individual NPC's get a little more time explaining how tired they are of their gimmicks. It's cute. I think this was only trimmed down for time and no other reason. I don't think it needed to be cut down. The extended version wouldn't have hurt the film at all. ***1/2.

Outtakes / Gag Reel:

You'd figure a blooper reel with Ryan Reynolds would be funnier. In fairness, his coffee reaction outtakes were pretty funny. I also liked the "They're here," bit. Taika Waititi is a surprisingly gifted physical comedian for a film director. ***1/2.

Theatrical Trailers:

I was curious how they'd handle these since I'd argue that seeing a trailer first could potentially be crucial to understanding and enjoying the movie. The trailers were all pretty good. And I think essential if you didn't have a synopsis to go by. Overall: ****1/2.

Theatrical Trailer 1:

Gives everything away. Which considering the narrative structure of the film is okay for the first time ever. By the way, this is Fox. Trying to spin this as a Disney film is more than dishonest. ****.

Theatrical Trailer 2:

It's not great they basically showed Alex Trebek's ENTIRE appearance, but I get why they did. Being from the studio that brought you Deadpool is more accurate. The first half of this trailer focuses on the humor of the movie and the second half focuses on the heart (and the action). ****1/2.

Theatrical Trailer 3:

They showed Guy and Millie's second meeting as if it's the first, which is nice and misleading. I approve. The trailer gives off "feel good" and "crowdpleaser" vibes. Completely. The best of the trailers. *****.
 

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