Free Guy

In theaters August 13.

THE PLOT:

Guy (Ryan Reynolds) lives a mundane life of regularity. He wears the same blue shirt and khakis, works at a bank as a teller and gets the exact same cup of outstanding coffee each morning. What Guy doesn’t realize is that he is actually a “Non-Player Character” (NPC) in “Free City” one of the most popular video games in the world. In video games, NPCs are the fodder for actual players who will run over, shoot, rob and blow them up.

Outside the game, programmer Keys (Joe Keery) works for the company who runs “Free City,” while his former programming partner Millie (Jodie Comer) searches for evidence that “Free City’s” CEO Antoine (Taika Waititi) stole their Artificial Intelligence program.

When Millie discovers that Guy has become a sentient being within the game, she asks for his help in finding the incriminating evidence to save “Free City” from permanent destruction.

KENT’S TAKE:

“Free Guy” follows a similar path to one of my favorite films, “Ready Player One.” Dual stories play out concurrently, one within the video game, one outside in real life.

Guy, finds that his mundane life just isn’t enough for him when he sees Millie’s character walk by. Instantly falling in love, he begins to pursue her, changing his routine and discovering new things about Free City and himself.

Meanwhile, Keys has noticed that Guy is not acting like an NPC. Instead of being a victim of human players in the game, Guy is acting like a hero, stopping player’s bad deeds (which is counter-intuitive to the game).

Writers Matt Liebermann and Zak Penn have brought us a smart, funny and entertaining film that forms an interesting statement about today’s online video games, and how it has affected attitudes in society. Although that sounds complex and deep, it is presented in a very entertaining way and really makes one think about how we treat each other.

Director Shawn Levy does an excellent job of interweaving this animated story with a real one as the animated story shows a world totally out of control and the normal citizens bearing the brunt of the mayhem . . . sound familiar/ironic? While the real world drama shows greed as the overbearing decision factor and its resulting effect on employees, the game actually creates an alternative to today’s mindless “shoot-‘em up video games.”

Reynolds isn’t playing his normal snarky, crude character that he has been typecast in for a while. Here he uses that perfect comic timing to transition from an NPC to a real person through trial and error – much like “Groundhog Day” on steroids. Reynolds’s strength comes in his self-deprecating humor, allowing audiences to understand that it’s okay to laugh at ourselves as much as one another.

The digital effects are top-notch, well used and create a vibrant world of action, humor and humanity. From gun play, car chases and crashing helicopters to digital destruction of buildings, and cool/funny Avatars, this film takes viewers on a crazy rollercoaster ride.

The balance of positive themes (good deeds, treating people respectfully, friendship and the power of love), action and humor create a memorable film for audiences. Although the plot may be skewed for older audiences, everyone will find something to relish about in this film.

“Free Guy” is a free-for-all of enjoyment as a crazy video game world is brought to its knees with kindness and self-respect.

LYNN’S TAKE:

Clever, brimming with wit and good nature, “Free Guy” is one of the most pleasant surprises of the summer.

As one who isn’t a gamer – and had to look up what a NPC is (non-player character), I expected to be lost, but thanks to an engaging cast, I could not only keep up but be entertained.

Set in a world of video game creation and role-playing, a town called Free City is where the action takes place, a busy burg with old-fashioned charm. Think Mayberry meets Metropolis.

Every day, the mayhem and mean streets one associates with video game action occurs as most everyone is trying to go about their daily lives. They deal with explosions, gunfire, criminals and stunts like it’s normal.

Guy (Ryan Reynolds) works as a bank teller, and his best friend, Buddy (Lil Rel Howery), is a security guard. The simple pleasure of a good cup of coffee makes their day, which includes a routine where they avoid gunshots, falling debris and hulking monsters.

Their oblivion and good hearts are refreshing, but of course, if there wasn’t a conflict, there would not be a movie. Can an action movie, particular in the sci-fi realm, be light-hearted?

“Free Guy” demonstrates that a little originality and a lot of technical acumen can produce a fizzy summer blockbuster not bogged down in high expectations.

As agreeable as cheery Guy is to watch going about his day, reminiscent of “The Truman Show,” waiting to pounce is a nefarious computer genius, Antoine. Taika Waititi, the wildly talented actor-writer-director who won an Oscar for writing “JoJo Rabbit,” plays a megalomaniac tech guru who has underhandedly ripped off an enterprising programming whiz Keys (Joe Keery) and his resourceful co-creator Millie (Jodie Comer) by stealing their innovative life’s work.

Somehow, Guy switches up the rules and displays a mind of his own, which is unheard of in this universe. The whole world is watching as “Blue Shirt Guy” captures viewers/players’ hearts, and he is motivated because he is attracted to one of the tough female characters, also played by the winning Comer, Emmy winner for ‘Killing Eve.”

Game on! The action gets fast, furious – and fun. Shawn Levy has directed this in a high-spirited way. He’s known for the “Night at the Museum” franchise and the streaming TV show “Stranger Things,” and keeps the action moving and the story sharp.

The actor who has played Steve Harrington, Joe Keery, is a likable mild-mannered gamer and smart techie who is on to Antoine’s schemes. With the help of his cynical work pal Mouser, the well-cast Utkarsh Ambudkar, they’re one step ahead of Antoine.

The cast appears to be ‘all in’ – and having a blast with the story’s playfulness. Howery, whose breakthrough was “Get Out” and has carved a niche as a good buddy, has a nice camaraderie with the everyman movie star Reynolds.

Reynolds is at his best as a good guy caught up in something he doesn’t understand. He has a knack for playing regular dudes under pressure, ready with a quip, and doesn’t shrink from saving the day. This role is more jocular, like DC’s “Deadpool,” his biggest hit, and he’s thoroughly charming.

“Free Guy” possesses a self-assured quality, and its veteran screenwriters know a thing or two about crowd-pleasers. Zak Penn, who sold his first script, “The Last Action Hero” when he was 23, has worked on films in the Marvel Comics Universe, including “X-Men 2” and “The Avengers,” and wrote “Ready Player One,” which bears a strong resemblance to the crux of “Free Guy.”

His co-writer Matt Lieberman has been working on such family-friendly fare as “The Christmas Chronicles” starring Kurt Russell as Santa Claus and the animated “The Addams Family” reboot.

Together, they have fashioned a breezy romp that’s well-suited for the big screen and makes nimble use of a crackerjack cast, who has splendidly mastered green screen acting.

“Free Guy,” which was slated for release last summer, is one of those rare August treats that unexpectedly has provided a delightful cinematic experience.