Netflix’s latest dip into the sci-fi genre presents us with two inevitable decisions in the film industry. One being a time-travel element that seems to be the top thing at the moment, and the other being the inclusion of Ryan Reynolds, which as we know is a sure-fire way of reeling in interest. The Adam Project uses both of these money making schemes to create something that although not bold or overly unique, is serviceable, charming and perhaps surprisingly satisfying.
Free Guy (2021) director Shawn Levy teams up again with the Canadian funny man, Reynolds. With their same blend of comedy and family-friendly flare bowling over into their most recent partnership. The Adam Project flirts with the idea of time-travel, providing some interesting new concepts, but ultimately offering much the same scientific restraints.
Adam Reed (Walker Scobell) is a witty, bright and misunderstood 12 year old. Recent life trauma forces Adam into a cocoon of self-deprecating sadness, using his sharp and humorous wit to help pass through the motions of his young life. That is until he meets Ryan Reynolds, who just so happens to be his older self. Adam (Reynolds) has sent himself back from the year 2050, in order to amend and hopefully alter what has come to be a troubling future. As Reynolds at one point remarks, 2050 is the Terminator on a good day.
With the aid of his younger self, Adam looks to right the wrongs that will present themselves for his future self, and rekindle and fix relationships with those he’s lost along the way.
There’s little to The Adam Project that feels wildly unique. We’ve seen streaming sites pump out these action/adventure types like it’s the only thing that they have any faith in anymore. Occasionally changing up the formula and finding ways to rework similar stories and scenarios, The Adam Project just feels like another fish in an already big pond. Only time will tell as to whether or not The Adam Project will distant itself from the generic commercial fluff that is consuming the film industry at the moment, or fall victim to the generational specific narration that many of a similar nature have already fallen to.
The partnership between Levy and Reynolds is far more refined this time around. The two seem to complement each other’s styles like butter on toast. Perhaps even stronger than that though, is the relationship between the two leads playing Adam. Walker Scobell is a younger Ryan Reynolds, there’s no question. You’d be thinking that there’s some camera trickery there to make you believe that the scenes with younger Adam were actually filmed some 30 something years ago, and Reynolds is indeed just acting alongside himself. But, that isn’t the case. Instead the pair riff off of each other wonderfully, and they can lean into a script that gives them a chance to broaden the scope of an otherwise recognisable and rather formulaic story.
There’s a strong set of supporting actors that also pop up throughout its runtime. Zoe Saldana as the missing love interest, Jennifer Garner as Adam’s mother, Mark Ruffalo as his genius father, and Catherine Keener as the villainess tech CEO of the company in which his father helped create. With the exception of Garner however, the screentime shared between these roles is distractingly short, in favour of allowing its two leads to do most of the work.
Between its favourable character writing, sharp special effects and charming family-friendly messaging, The Adam Project narrowly escapes the generic appearance of straight-to-streaming servicing. Hinging more on the relationships between its characters and less on the world that is being created around it, this is both a blessing and a curse to the overall execution. A family fun affair that offers chuckles and cool concepts, but fails to bolster the bigger picture that was merely hinted.