• by Wes Singleton

Free Guy -B

Rated PG-13, 115 minutes

The new action-fantasy comedy "Free Guy" starring "Deadpool's" Ryan Reynolds is an enjoyable, if not overly busy, way to spend a couple of hours, likely easier than trying to move up a tier in Fortnite. In spite of a muddled story with more holes than Minecraft, the movie succeeds in large part due to its energetic visuals and Reynolds' charm.

The new In the open world video game Free City, Guy (Reynolds) is a non-player character (NPC) working as a bank teller. Thanks to a program developed by programmers Millie (Emmy-winner Jodie Comer of "Killing Eve") and Keys ("Stranger Things" Joe Keery) inserted into the game by the publisher Antoine (Oscar-winner Taika Waititi, chewing scenery here), Guy becomes self-aware of his world being a video game, and tries to be a hero by racing against time to save the game before the developers can shut it down.

"Free Guy" is a fun look at the details of a video game, but with heart and some decent messages about equality and courage. It's directed by Shawn Levy, a veteran director of such films as the "Night at the Museum" film series, and co-written by Matt Lieberman ("Playing with Fire") and Zak Penn, who's hand has been involved with some of the "X-Men" and "Avengers" film series. The film,has some strong, colorful visual touches, though an unfocused story littered with code and programming nonsense could have been streamlined.

The film's best asset is none other than Reynolds himself, whose own brand of likable, self-aware humor is perfect for the character of Guy (or the Blue Shirt Guy as he becomes known as) who becomes the most self-aware non-player character in video game history. Reynolds' random one liners - he has some good ones with a barista and fellow NPC - are a hoot, and his presence always feels genuine. Waititi is hammy and over-the-top, though never dull, and comedian Lil’ Rel Howery has great chemistry with Reynolds, so well that I believe they need a buddy cop movie together.

"Free Guy" runs a tad long and there seems to be a lot of back and forth to get things resolved, but the film's rapid energy and stunning special effects keep it moving along nicely. There are also a few much-talked about cameos from some big name movie stars, a couple you have to listen closely to, but I won't spoil those. "Free Guy" is a good, heartfelt time from Reynolds and company who says that even the smallest of characters are important.