High concept science fiction adventures used to be par for the course in a previous era. It’s interesting how with more and more technology at filmmakers’ hands, we’re not necessarily seeing added creativity. Luckily, something like The Adam Project then comes along to course correct. I was unexpectedly blown away. This is a tremendously fun throwback to the sort of sci-fi adventures we got in the 1980s. Plus, it has a sneaky emotional element that may unexpectedly bring about tears. Not only does the film manage to honor what’s come before, it also tells an original tale worth getting excited over. This is a great movie.
The Adam Project is the kind of film that would make Steven Spielberg proud, so deep in its veins is the essence of vintage Amblin Entertainment. The Spielberg element looms large, but this is also very much its own thing. Utilizing family dynamics, time travel, and movie star charisma, this is exactly what audiences go to a multiplex for. The fact that most folks will be seeing it on Netflix is a conversation for another time, but if you can see it on the big screen, that’s the best way. This is, quite simply, supremely entertaining cinema.
For Adam Reed (Walker Scobell), all of the normal troubles of a thirteen year old boy are compounded by the recent death of his father, Louis Reed (Mark Ruffalo). He’s struggling to connect with his mother Ellie (Jennifer Garner), who also is dealing with this tragedy. Quick-witted and with a smart mouth, he’s a target for bullies, much to the consternation of both. One night, while Ellie is out, Adam goes into his garage and finds something extraordinary. Or, more to the point, someone extraordinary…a wounded pilot from the future who turns out to be none other than Adam himself.
Teen Adam is shocked, but quickly takes a shine to his future self (Ryan Reynolds). Adult Adam is more annoyed at jumping to the wrong point in the past, since time travel is still on the newer side. That, and the fact that he’s risked everything for this secret mission, one that hopefully will stop Maya Sorian (Catherine Keener) as well as potentially save his wife Laura (Zoe Saldaña). Together, both Adams will need to head further into the past to find their father, fix what’s broken, and save the world. Of course, Louis has his own issues in reacting to two future versions of his son entering the picture. Not only will the three need to start working together, both versions of Adam must come to terms with the loss of their father in order to heal their wounds. Plus, the whole future end of the world thing. So, a lot is on the line, only exacerbated by how both Adams, as well as Big Adam and Louis, just can’t seem to get along.
Ryan Reynolds gets to put all of his charm on display here, while also digging a little deeper for the emotional core of the character. It’s a movie star role, to be sure, but he gives it his all, with the results speaking for themselves. He’s great here. Reynolds also has excellent chemistry with newcomer Walker Scobell, which makes their early scenes together a riot. Their constant bickering is a hoot, with something similar being said for Reynolds and Mark Ruffalo. However, the trio also have a heartbreaking scene that somehow even calls back to Field of Dreams. The female cast members aren’t given as much to do, though Jennifer Garner has some very witty lines, while Zoe Saldaña is an excellent badass. If there’s someone wasted, it’s Catherine Keener as a mostly one-dimensional villain. Smaller parts exist for supporting players like Braxton Bjerken, Alex Mallari Jr., and more, but it’s really just about the main trio.
Director Shawn Levy brings equal amounts of action, heart, and humor to The Adam Project. While not quite as bombastic as Free Guy, it also showcases just how much fun Levy and Reynolds are having together. This film is aiming for more emotion, but hardly at the expense of a big genre adventure. The screenplay, credited to Jennifer Flackett, Mark Levin, T.S. Nowlin, and Jonathan Tropper (a terrific author in his own right) could easily have been a mess, but it comes across smarter and more honest than you’d expect. Mix it with Levy’s genuine directorial joy and you have a winning formula.
The Adam Project is one of the year’s best and most surprising films so far. It’s a blast, able to make you laugh while also setting you up to sob as well. If you can see it in a theater, definitely make the effort, but when it drops on Netflix this weekend, it’s a must-watch. I can’t recommend this movie enough to you all!