(CLICK HERE to read my full review in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette)
Shawn Levy’s “The Adam Project” is a Ryan Reynolds vehicle in that head-scratching vein of projects that dress themselves up as family movies but then push past the bounds of what’s often considered “family friendly”. For me it’s often hard to tell what audience these things are aiming for. Written by the team of Jonathan Topper, T.S. Nowlin, Jennifer Flackett, and Mark Levin, “The Adam Project” takes its playful spin on time travel and combines it with a surprisingly layered family drama. It’s all bound together by that all-too-familiar Ryan Reynolds brand of snappy irreverent comedy. Fans of his shtick will probably be onboard. Those wearied by the 45-year-old Canadian’s go-to high jinks may have a harder time.
In fairness, “The Adam Project” isn’t full-on Ryan Reynolds nuttiness. Levy pulls the reins back just a bit and tries to capture as much heart as humor. That’s a good thing because the likable Reynolds is usually at his best when he’s kept on his leash. Still, chunks of the script are written with his comedy act in mind meaning you’re guaranteed at least a variation of the same character type he almost always plays.
This time around Reynolds plays Adam Reed, a time-traveling fighter pilot from the year 2050. His story begins with the weirdly straightforward disclaimer: “Time travel exists. You just don’t know it yet.” From there, we see the wounded Adam flying his damaged “time jet” through a wormhole he creates as he frantically attempts to escape from the clutches of the film’s antagonist, Catherine Keener’s Maya Sorian (more on her later).
We then swing back to 2022 where Adam’s smart-mouthed 12-year-old self (played by newcomer Walker Scobell) spends more time suspended from school than in class. We learn it’s been over a year since his father Louis died in a car accident and young Adam is having a hard time adjusting. His mother Ellie (Jennifer Garner) does her best to fill the shoes of both parents, but she too is struggling to pick up the pieces. Despite being connected by a similar pain, they both feel miles apart.
Can you see where this is going? Older Adam accidentally crash-lands his jet in 2022 where he encounters his younger self. It turns out that time jets are tuned to the pilot’s DNA. But with older Adam injured, his jet won’t clear him to fly. So he recruits younger Adam to help him fix his plane so he can carry out his mission. What mission you ask? To travel to 2018 where he hopes to uncover the truth about his missing wife Laura (Zoe Saldaña). An ace time-hopper herself, Laura traveled back to 2018 against the wishes of her superiors and hasn’t been heard from since.
Inevitably we end up with older Adam and younger Adam traveling further back in time with the sinister Sorian (remember her) hot on their heels. And once there, the two Adams seek the help of their still alive father Louis (Mark Ruffalo), a college physics professor who happens to know a little about time travel. As the three work together to essentially save the world, they’re also given the opportunity to heal old wounds and truly appreciate the time they had together.
Underneath the good-looking action sequences, hit-or-miss humor, and out of the blue needle drops is a surprising amount of heart. Levy and company put a lot of effort into pulling us in emotionally as they use this unorthodox family dynamic to explore feelings of love, loss, grief, and regret just to name a few. And even if it’s pretty easy to see where it’s all heading, the movie still manages to hit you in your feels.
At the same time it’s hard to avoid the silliness, especially when the film starts going on about “magnetic particle accelerators”, a “diamond-hard neuromorphic processor”, or the “Infinitely Shifting Plasma Containing Algorithm”. And while there are several terrific action scenes, the visual effects aren’t always convincing (take the erratic digital de-ageing of one specific character – it’s bad). It’s also a bummer when Garner all but vanishes for most of the second half (she only has one meaningful scene with Ruffalo so sorry, no “13 Going on 30” reunion here).
“The Adam Project” might lean a little too heavy on the zany charisma of its lead actor, and it gets a little lazy going for cheap laughs (am I the only one tired of the ‘little kid throwing out profanity just for giggles’ device?). But there’s a fun story at the core of it all, and I challenge you not to be moved by where the story goes, specifically one heartfelt scene in the final minutes. It’s a moment that grounds the movie it makes all the frustrations a little easier to digest. “The Adam Project” premieres today on Netflix.
Sounds like good mindless entertainment. Will probably be watching this one.
Yep. It’s fine. But I’ll be honest, I’m so tired of these writers and directors who keep on using the lazy ‘kid spitting out profanity’ as humor. Ugh.
Keith, I agree that they have worn the tread off of some tropes. I don’t like it when the money people always want to “play it safe.”
Got this pencilled in for tomorrows action movie night. I don’t mind Reynolds being Reynolds.
You’ll probably dig this one.
I don’t think I’m going to see this. I’d rather see Ryan Reynolds either as Deadpool or play outside of his comfort zone. Other than that, I have no interest and fuck Shawn Levy. He’s the definition of mediocrity and I don’t want to waste my time on mediocrity.
Reynolds seems like a fun guy, but I’m not into his shtick. Deadpool completely numbed me. Now I’m hearing Levy is directing DP3!
That worries me. I feel like it’s going to be treated like every other superhero but w/o Deadpool’s naughty language. This is not going to be good. Ugh… Is it me or does Shawn Levy looks like that creepy televangelist Joel Osteen?
Ha! I hadn’t thought of that!
DC League of Super-Pets won’t be in cinemas until July 😦
Catching this over the weekend! I don’t usually expect much out of Ryan Reynolds comedies other than pure mindless fun. This one seems to fit the bill. 🙂
It’s mindless in spots, but I was really surprised to find it has so much heart. Enjoy!
Thanks for the review, and the heads up about it pushing the limits of what is family friendly to many of us. It sounds good enough we’ll give it a try, but without the kids. Which is probably a good idea anyway since my wife spends the majority Ryan Reynolds movies looking at him like he’s a juicy pork chop she wants to gobble up.
HA!!! Sounds like my wife watching Chris Hemsworth movies! This is one I would recommend watching without younger kids at first. That way you can decide if it is suitable.
I watched some of this on Friday, it tired me out, a little more on Saturday, haven’t felt any itch to watch the rest. I think part of my problem was the story structure, where something happened but we don’t know, so no context for what’s going on. And I don’t like bratty little kids in movies. Mostly because they are rarely written as actual children, they are precocious to the point of practically being nothing more than midget adults.
I 100% agree. They write this kids as types that fit these specific comedies. It’s something that has ran its course with me.