Sometimes, the main character doesn’t have to be special; he can just be a normal, milquetoast, regular guy.
An action comedy set inside a video game, “Free Guy” was directed by Shawn Levy, who also directed the “Night at the Museum” movies. It was written by Matt Lieberman and Zak Penn, the latter of which wrote the “Ready Player One” film adaptation.
The film follows Guy, a non-playable character (NPC) in the fictitious game Free City. Inside the Grand Theft Auto-like game, Guy lives on a path: wake up, get coffee, go to work, ad infinitum. But after running into the player Millie, AKA Molotov Girl, Guy begins to think for himself, breaking from his set path in the game.
“Free Guy” is an enjoyable enough film filled with fun video game aspects. It has a deep enough level of complexity, which makes it a little more interesting, especially in its discussion of artificial intelligence. But altogether, it’s a typical film set inside of a computer that doesn’t do enough to make it special.
Ryan Reynolds stars as the titular character, Guy. Reynolds does his usual shtick, playing the average Joe white guy. But he does it so charmingly and with enough charisma to carry the film, especially as he becomes more aware and powerful throughout the film. It’s the role he’s perfect for.
Along with Reynolds is Jodie Comer as Millie/Molotov Girl. She does a great job, especially in switching between her fairly regular real self and her badass online persona. She stands well next to Reynolds as the secondary lead, holding her own opposite of Guy.
Finally, there’s Lil Rel Howery as Guy’s NPC friend Buddy, Joe Keery as Millie’s ex-game partner Walter “Keys” McKeys, Utkarsh Ambudkar as programmer Mouser and Taika Waititi as the bombastic game designer Antwan. Everyone does a good job, especially at creating fun and relatively interesting characters within the film.
The film follows a pretty standard plot line. It does everything well enough, especially at staying easy to follow. There’s not much complexity within the structure or order of events in the film, and that’s fine. It doesn’t need to be overly complicated to be enjoyable.
However, there’s a decent amount of weighty conversations towards the middle of the film, when Guy realizes that he’s in a video game. The movie explores the implications of Guy’s fictitious nature and what it means to be alive, resulting in one of the better scenes in the film (a scene with two characters just having a conversation). It’s not as well thought out or sophisticated as similar films like “Toy Story” or “The Matrix,” but it works well here by adding more to the film than just funny video game references.
The Kissing Booth 3
Like a scoop of vanilla ice cream atop scoops of chocolate and strawberry, “The Kissing Booth 3” rounds out the sugary teen trilogy with a fitting, if bland, finale. The story picks up after high school graduation, as Elle (Joey King) and her bestie, Lee (Joel Courtney), gear up for college. In “The Kissing Booth” extended universe, this means moving into an oceanfront mansion and spending days ticking items off an elaborate summer bucket list. (If Elle and Lee were on TikTok, Hype House would have some competition.)
As Elle’s ever-dreamy beau, Noah (Jacob Elordi), watches from the sidelines, she and Lee initiate a flash mob, splash down a waterslide and, in the movie’s most cartoonish set piece, organize a real-life Mario Kart-like competition with go-karts speeding around a racetrack. A medley of scheduling stresses, family angst and relationship triangles ignite minor growing pains. But among lengthy montages of fun in the sun, worries are brief.
The Suicide Squad
The Suicide Squad, now in theaters and on HBO Max, is a raucous adventure filled with righteous action, glorious gore and a sick sense of humor. It builds to a truly bonkers ending (and a post-credits scene setting up a new Peacemaker TV series) which may have left you as dazed as the film’s giant slow-witted King Shark, so here’s all the details of the 2021 Suicide Squad jaw-dropping climax.
The 2021 Suicide Squad sequel/reboot is a scabrous, side-splitting and surprisingly smart supervillain romp, as I note in my CNET review. It’s in theaters now (even if it isn’t making a ton of money) and is available to stream on HBO Max until September 5.
In Jungle Cruise, Disney’s latest adaptation of one of its theme-park rides, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson plays an inexplicably brawny skipper named Frank, whose love of bad puns belies the fact that he is cursed to be trapped for eternity atop the Amazon River. Much of the movie revolves around Frank’s ability to pop off dad jokes while operating a tourist jungle cruise while also low-key trying to find a mystical leaf that will allow him to finally die. It is two hours and eight minutes long, and one of its characters is a man made entirely of bees. Our critic Bilge Ebiri did not enjoy Jungle Cruise, calling it a “mealymouthed CGI panderfest” that hurled him deep into the pits of Herzogian existential despair.
While I respected and mostly agreed with Bilge’s review, I couldn’t help but wonder if our perspectives were flawed, seeing as neither of us had ever been employed as Disney Jungle Cruise operators. It’s an important and agreed-upon tenet of film criticism that all movies must be reviewed by real people who do the real jobs in those movies, or else the review doesn’t count (godfathers on The Godfather, tomb raiders on Tomb Raider, zookeepers’ wives on The Zookeeper’s Wife, etc.) With that in mind, I reached out to Steve Krupkin, a man who helmed the simulated riverboat ride in his youth and who is now my uncle, and forced him to pay $30 to watch Jungle Cruise on Disney+ during his vacation.