Let’s get one thing straight. My mom is the best mom. You may think your mom is the best mom, but I’m sorry, you’re wrong.
My mom is the best mom. Case in point – my mom let me take the day off school so that we could go to my local games store at opening time in order for her to queue up to buy me Grand Theft Auto III for the PlayStation 2. I was significantly underage. She is the best mom, and that’s just one such great reason why among many.
But my mom is, in no shape, way, or form, what anyone would consider a 'gamer'. She used to call my Game Boy the Game Child, and still needs help figuring out her TV remote.
So I was more than a bit amused, if not astonished, to find that she’d stumbled into a screening of Free Guy, the new Ryan Reynolds movie about a non-playable games character realizing he’s part of a simulation. Not only that, she’d gone along with her 80-year-old sister, who is many times more clueless, bless her, when it comes to all things tech.
How would a film so reliant on gaming in-jokes, technological tropes and meme culture go down with someone who still considers her vinyl collection (perhaps rightly) the zenith of technological achievement?
Would she find it funny? Would she get it? Would it inspire her to take up gaming, or leave her even more bemused by its entire culture? With a very specific audience seemingly in mind, would my mom find something that spoke to her in Free Guy? Beyond ripped stars, that is.
Let’s find out. Take notes, Ryan Reynolds – here’s Mom Lynch’s very honest, reasonably confused review of Free Guy, in Q and A format.
Free Guy: The Mom Lynch review
All right, so you're on the record now, Mom. So anything you say will go on the site. So no swearing.
[Editor’s note: Mom Lynch fires off a string of angry expletives.]
[Editor’s note: ...Only joking, my mom is a saint. Everything that follows is true.]
So, how did you end up going to see Free Guy, starring Ryan Reynolds?
I wanted to see People Just Do Nothing, but Sheila [Mom Lynch’s 80-year-old sister] hasn't seen the series, and I have, so she wouldn’t have understood that either. And it wasn't maybe her thing, she's 80. So I was looking for something that wasn't a kid's film, like Croods or whatever you call it, and there was all them sort of films there. And I thought, I don't want to see a Disney film, you know? And all these Marvel films, I haven't kept up with them since like Superman 1980-something. Do you understand what I mean? You know, all these and even that Superman doesn't make sense to me, you know?
Do you and Sheila go to the cinema a lot together?
The odd film – if somebody comes up. We went to see... what was that one with Ziwigger, that girl? [Editor’s note: Zellweger, Renée] Bridget’s Baby. Judy Garland. You know all that. You know that I've been to see Elton John, but not with Sheila, and Bohemian Rhapsody that sort of thing.
So I was looking for something light. I don't like, you know, I don't like killing, horror films, so they’re out.
What do you and Sheila like to go see?
Sheila likes a comedy, probably. I think the last film we've seen before lockdown was Laurel and Hardy. I didn't never thought I'd cry over Laurel and Hardy, but I almost came out in tears – I wouldn't let Sheila see me at the end
So this film, I see on the side of a bus, Free Guy, right? And I thought, “I wonder what Free Guy is? Probably one of these kids films.” And then I went on to the Genesis Cinema website. And thought “Oh, It sounds like the Truman Story [Ed. The Truman Show], or Groundhog Day.” You know when someone's stuck in something and they don't know they're in it and I thought that sounds good to me.
OK, so before we go any further, what's your experience with computer games?
Can you remember the last video game you played?
Probably before the millennium. Some car game I did for about five minutes that someone got for Christmas and let me have a little go around. That was it. A red car!
I've also made you endure VR as well…
Oh yeah, yeah. That was through no fault of my own. I wouldn’t have done it if I thought I was going to fall off some tower block, or sharks were gonna get me.
But you’re not really up with gaming are you?
No. I know nothing about anything.
I'm still Commodore 64 and even that I had no part in. Your Dad put that together with Uncle Alan, and it was just a ping pong ball going backwards and forwards or a little King Kong up the top of a building, and you a had a little plane go over and had to try to knock him off the building. That was probably the last game I ever played properly.
What's your current experience with gaming then? Is it through your grandkids?
I don't even take no notice of what they're doing, to be honest! I’ve walked in on Lucas and Joseph [Ed. aforementioned grandkids] playing a football game. And, all right, my eyes are bad but I've looked and I’ve thought “are they real men running around?” But I have!
Sheila has even less knowledge than me. She's none at all
Without spoiling it Mom, tell me what Free Guy is about, having seen it?
I would say, as I said, at first I was comparing it at first to Groundhog Day because, I have to say this, at the beginning, there's things that are happening to him that happen again. Do you get what I mean? And if it was going to be along those lines. I don't know where I thought I was going with it. And I had to... I was like Sheila's interpreter. I had to try and tell Sheila what I thought it was about, and I was finding it at first that I didn’t know what was happening. Put it this way, it wasn't complicated. It only got a little bit technical, sort of, when they were trying to get in him, what can I say… out of the game?
Alright, let me stop you. What is the film about?
Well, it took me a while, but basically, there's a bit of… there's a bit of a love story to it as well. Right?
If I was to say to you, “Say the sentence, ‘Free Guy is about…”, what would you say?
Free Guy is about... Well, Free Guy is about if artificial intelligence was possible.
...Which is, for someone who doesn't do gaming at all, it takes a bit to get your head around. Anyone your age and younger would be totally into, you know?
So what elements did you most enjoy?
I wanted it to be a bit more of a comedy, but I think I might have been losing some of the jokes, because I heard a couple of people laugh, but I never laughed! I didn't know the references.
Did you feel like you were left behind by not knowing some of the gaming references that the film makes?
Not altogether because, without telling you the story, there was like the girl and the boy who were part of making the game they give you little references that people like me could clue on to. Look, in no way was it complicated. It was just that it wasn't the film that I thought I was seeing. Lots of action – lots of action.
So tell me if possible, without spoiling the film, three moments that you really enjoyed.
Three moments I enjoyed… there’s a part in it, the girl does quite a lot of action. He is like, what can I say, things happen to him like... it wasn't a laugh for me, it wasn’t a laugh out loud, and I didn't hear many people in there laughing. I thought I was going to see a comedy. It was a comedy, don't get me wrong, when you see it you'll know what I mean. It was a comedy, but there was a little bit to it where they have to go into the game and retrieve something. And it was getting a bit at that point that I thought “... does Sheila know what’s happening here?” you know? I didn’t even know.
What was Sheila’s kind of response throughout?
[Ed’s note: there is a very long pause here]
...Nothing? Nothing! She did go a couple of times “Ohhh!”
Look, don't get me wrong, it wasn't complicated and it wasn't complicated to follow, you just sat and watched all the action. I did get it. Look, it comes down to a situation with this military operation between these gamers to get him out of there, and I don't want to spoil it, see? A bit of a love story.
Okay, so, were there any computer games in it that...
Oh, his friend was funny. He had a friend, this security guard who worked with him at the bank. He was like, you know like... Look, can I tell you, it's all to do with wearing glasses….
Okay, that's all you need to say, No spoilers, Mom! No spoilers! Were there any computer game references that you recognized?
You ask me now I'm beginning to forget! There was sort of like people doing things on computers and getting into the game and... it was a bit confusing because,
How about YouTube. Was there YouTubers in it?
There are people in it who comment on the game, and they could see what was happening, towards the end when it became public a bit. It was supposed to be like people on screens, like the public thinking, “Oh, will he get out of there?”
Did you recognize any of these YouTubers? Because my understanding is that some of them are professional YouTubers cast in the film.
Oh yes, there could well have been. There were loads of people talking – I haven't got a clue who they was, they could have been anyone. That is what was lost on me. For you, you'd say “Oh that was so-and-so and so-and-so so”. But to me it could have been Johnny-Next-Door, do you know what I mean?
What did you think of Ryan Reynolds in it?
Yeah, he was… he was good. I'm still of the Bill Murray days, and Jim Carrey days. Don't know if he came quite up to scratch to them. But no, no, he was funny. There was a bit right at the end...
Probably don't tell us that then!
No, you know I'm good at telling the endings! But there is one bit at the end where it's another version of him, that made me laugh. But I don’t know what I was laughing at some of that, because maybe that's another games thing that I’m not aware of!
Would you go see Free Guy 2?
Probably… well I’ve seen it all now. I don't know how they could expand it, I suppose they could.
What did you take away from it?
I got the point of how you can control someone in the game. And me and Sheila come out of there with, like… our talk when I first went into Tesco supermarket after coming out, you know, was “say we’re in a game Sheila, say this is someone controlling me.” And we went along talking about it until we eventually got around to talking about God and all the rest of it! It made you think, could we be in the game, and someone's like, killing us today, or making me fall over or doing... what can I say.
It threw up some existential questions for you.
Because we are not gamers, yeah. I said to Sheila, “whoever wrote that story, I have thought my own self sometimes when you talk about God, or why we're here, or what we're here for is, someone up there pulling the strings? And whoever wrote that script is on the same level as what I have often thought. Everything could do in the game then is like you’re that controller. How can I put it – everything you do in your life you think you're doing, you think you're the one doing. But say there was someone else?
Would you play a computer game based on Free Guy?
Probably not at my age. Someone would, younger people.
If you were given the opportunity to be in Free Guy 2 would you take it?
Probably only making the coffee, put it that way, if anyone sees the film, they'll never know what I mean. I’ll be the girl doing the coffee.
TechRadar reviews list pros and cons for the things we test and see, so what are the positives and negatives to Free Guy?
I like the concept, I liked the action. I don’t see as many films as you thought, you might think it’s rubbish. One negative, I was looking for a bit more comedy, but being that I don’t know these gamers maybe it was there and a bit lost on me? Not that there weren't laughs, I did laugh, but I wanted to be “ha ha ha ha ha!”, but I spent half the film catching up.
It's a balance towards positive, then! And finally, we score things out of five, and you're allowed half scores as well. So how would you score Free Guy out of 5?
Erm. For me? Maybe three and a half? So what’s that, seven out of ten? Is that low?
Sounds fair to me! Thank you very much for your first review Mom! How was that?
I hope all this ain’t going to go up there, me talking away. Because I would have talked better! Not that I’ll see it, I don’t even know how to get to your website. You’ve got free rein really. I can just about answer my phone.
Free Guy is in cinemas worldwide now.