Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5
USA/Canada, 2021. 20th Century Studios, 21 Laps Entertainment, Berlanti Productions, Lit Entertainment Group, Maximum Effort. Story by Matt Lieberman, Screenplay by Matt Lieberman, Zak Penn. Cinematography by George Richmond. Produced by Greg Berlanti, Adam Kolbrenner, Shawn Levy, Ryan Reynolds, Sarah Schechter. Music by Christophe Beck. Production Design by Ethan Tobman. Costume Design by Marlene Stewart. Film Editing by Dean Zimmerman.
Guy (Ryan Reynolds) lives an idyllic life in a gleaming city populated by both normal people like himself and superheroes, who are distinguished by the fact that they wear sunglasses. His routine is an unquestioned pleasure that includes waking up to eat the same breakfast every morning, put on the same outfit and go to his job at a bank where he chats with his best friend, the bank’s security guard, in between the robberies and holdups that occur multiple times a day. The drill begins to feel old on a special day when Guy acknowledges his pangs of loneliness and wants to find love. Spotting a gorgeous, mysterious woman and deciding to ignore the fact that she is a sunglasses-wearer (and therefore off limits), he pursues her and ends up donning a pair of shades himself, suddenly overwhelmed with powers that open him up to the truth about his world: he actually lives in a video game and he is an NPC, a non-player character, background filler for the avatars that humans in the outside world use to cause the violence he witnesses so regularly. The woman he loves is the “skin” for a human being (Jodie Comer) who is exploring the game to find proof of copyright infringement by the software tycoon (Taika Waititi) who “created” the game years after purchasing a similar program that she created with her friend (Joe Keery). This all sounds like a formula for fun and imaginative caprice, but this combination of The Truman Show and Ready Player One has neither the humanity of the one nor the technical wonder of the latter, relying solely on Reynolds’ as always appealing blend of hunky looks and self-deprecating humour to ride us over some very basic screenplay construction: Guy must deal with not being real, Comer and Keery must solve both their career dilemma as well as their personal one (neither of which contain any surprises). Shawn Levy’s direction is so lazy that he barely stays awake while moving through every predictable step of the plot, making little effort to create a video game world that looks all that different from the real one, there’s no escapism involved in this story’s most indulgent aspects, so what is it supposed to be? An incisive drama on copyright infringement? FUN.