The Adam Project is the most recent collaboration of director Shawn Levy and actor Ryan Reynolds after last year’s Free Guy (2021). In general, Ryan Reynolds works for me – and that’s no different here. There is plenty of the usual Reynolds brand of snarky banter with some entertaining sci-fi action and story.
Adam Reed (Ryan Reynolds) crash lands back in the year 2022 while fleeing former friend Maya Sorian (Catherine Keener). He heads to his childhood home where he runs into his 12-year-old self (Walker Scobell), and the two team up to take down the time-traveling baddies in order to save the future.
Scobell does a very solid job as a child actor. The story really relies on the talent of this kid at its center – and if Scobell wasn’t up to the task, it would completely fall apart. However, if the audience doesn’t like his performance, or finds the chemistry between him and Reynolds lacking, this movie will likely not work for them. Much of its appeal is the interplay between the two, and the connection the audience makes with the idea of “what if I met my younger/older self” and “how would I feel about who I was or who I became.” This dynamic really resonated with me as I approach my 40th birthday, as I am often confronted with memories that I shake my head in disappointment too, or with regret about things, I wish I’d known back then.
At the heart of that debate is the relationship young Adam has with his mother, played by Jennifer Garner, and his father, played by the always outstanding Mark Ruffalo. Their family dynamic is challenging, and after many years, the older Adam has realized he did some things wrong or packed away significant issues rather than resolving them. It leads to a tremendously emotional monolog delivered by Ruffalo that in lesser hands may have felt cheesy – but it really tugged at my heartstrings.
Of course, all the heart and snark in this film only gets more fun when we appreciate the sci-fi packaging it is wrapped in: a time-traveling pilot with some pretty awesome weapons whose wife in the future is Zoe Saldana (who always overperforms in these sci-fi roles). The downside here is that her character doesn’t get quite as much to do in this film…but she uses her screentime effectively, and has an instant connection with Reynolds.
I’d gone to this film, which is streaming on Netflix right now, with a bit of apprehension. Nonetheless, in my history with Reynolds, it is rare that his style of comedy and charm doesn’t pull me in. There are these comedic guys like Reynolds and Paul Rudd who always transcend the materials, because I just enjoy watching them do their thing. Thus, The Adam Project earns the Not Quite Golden, Ponyboy rating.