Directed by: Shawn Levy
Premise: A time traveler (Ryan Reynolds) returns to 2022 and recruits his twelve-year-old self (Walker Scobell) on a mission to change the future. They are pursued by a murderous business woman (Catherine Keener) intent on stopping them.
What Works: The Adam Project benefits from some excellent casting. Ryan Reynolds and Walker Scobell are cast as older and younger versions of the same character. Reynolds is playing a variation on his usual wise guy shtick but Walker Scobell excels in imitating Reynolds and the two play off each other to great comic effect. The best moments in The Adam Project have nothing to do with saving the world but rather focus on Reynolds’ character and his relationship with his parents. He regrets the way he treated his mother (Jennifer Garner) and grieves the untimely death of his father (Mark Ruffalo) and the scenes of Reynolds’ character reuniting with his parents have some emotionally resonant moments. The Adam Project is a time travel movie and the logic of these films is always flimsy but this picture has some interesting rationales for its view of time travel and continuity.
What Doesn’t: Since the release of 2016’s Deadpool, Ryan Reynolds has fashioned a moviemaking formula that combines action, sentimentality, and an acerbic but self-aware style of comedy. That formula has been deployed with varying degrees of success in Free Guy, Red Notice, 6 Underground, and The Hitman’s Bodyguard. The Reynolds action-comedy formula is wearing thin and its seams are showing in The Adam Project. The film remains within a commercial template designed to placate a movie star’s comfort zone and so The Adam Project often feels like an industrial product. The humor is hit and miss. Some of the jokes are quite funny but the self-aware humor much less so and these moments frequently feel out of place. The stakes of this story are mostly abstract. We’re told that the fate of the world is in jeopardy; the film repurposes the familiar sci-fi idea of a lone hero traveling to the past to save the future. But in The Adam Project the devastation of the future is always nebulous and it is unclear how the hero’s actions will actually avert disaster. The action and comedy are meant to distract from the hollowness at the film’s center which they do to some degree. But the resolution leaves the viewer with little sense of anything won or lost.
DVD extras: Available on Netflix.
Bottom Line: The Adam Project is a satisfactory but forgettable sci-fi action picture. Everything in it is done well enough but the movie largely consists of safe and familiar storytelling choices.
Episode: #895 (March 20, 2022)