Directed by Shawn Levy (Free Guy) – Screenplay by Jonathan Tropper, T.S. Nowlin, Jennifer Flackett, and Mark Levin.
In Shawn Levy’s The Adam Project, we follow Adam Reed (played by Walker Scobell), a 12-year-old who makes a lot of witty remarks and gets into fights. Adam and his mother (played by Jennifer Garner) are struggling after the recent death of his father (played by Mark Ruffalo), and they’re still trying to adjust to their new normal. While his mother is out on a date, something incredible happens. After going outside to check on a mysterious sound, he returns to his family home and finds a wounded fighter pilot, who has let himself inside. It doesn’t take Adam long to figure out that this isn’t just any fighter pilot, this is himself from a dystopian future. This older Adam (played by Ryan Reynolds) has traveled back in time to save lives and the future, but, now that he is injured, he may need his 12-year-old self to accomplish the job.
In recent years, after Ryan Reynolds became synonymous with a popular wise-ass fourth-wall-breaking superhero, the hilarious and lovable Canadian motormouth has started to turn to Netflix to find new projects. However, the results of this newfound relationship with the streamer have been mixed, to say the least. Although I’m sure it is not without its fans, Michael Bay’s 6 Underground, in which Reynolds had a starring role, didn’t really leave much of an impact on the year it was released. It has since been outshone by other action hits on Netflix. Like, for example, the other Reynolds-Netflix vehicle Red Notice. Last year’s action-adventure heist film was supposedly one of the most seen Netflix films ever, but it didn’t receive a lot of love critically, as its main acting trio – also including Dwayne Johnson and Gal Gadot – mostly got by through portraying their characters like they were merely extensions of their public personas. Though it’s still very much reliant on the popular attitude and quips that Reynolds is known for, I think that The Adam Project is both a much better film and that it asks more of Reynolds than the other two films did.
In The Adam Project, Ryan Reynolds’ character is a more hardened, pessimistic, and world-weary character. He’s still funny, he still makes Reynoldsesque jokes, but it should be clear for most to see that the more bright-eyed witticisms come from the younger Adam played by Walker Scobell. Reynolds is good in the film, and he shares some really moving scenes with both Mark Ruffalo, Jennifer Garner, and Walker Scobell, in which the film does a good job of highlighting how our perspective and understanding of things change as we grow older. This may actually be the thing that works the best about this film, with Walker Scobell’s lively performance being its great surprise. Scobell’s performance really does feel like a young Ryan Reynolds, and he perfectly captures that modern Spielbergesque sense of wonder that the film is clearly going for and trying to imitate. Although the scenes may be too sappy to some, I deeply loved Ruffalo’s final scene in the film, and Garner’s earlier scene in the bar also made my eyes well up with tears.
Originally intended to be a sci-fi star-vehicle for Tom Cruise, The Adam Project has now eventually landed with Netflix and has been brought to the streamer by a director-star collaboration that is working quite well for me thus far. Levy is reportedly going to direct an upcoming and as of yet untitled Deadpool sequel starring Reynolds, and based on Free Guy and The Adam Project it seems like Levy and Reynolds are a good fit (even though the tone of this film probably isn’t going to be anything like a Deadpool 3).
However, although I had a great time with it, I will also be the first one to admit that it is not without issues. I think the musical score is sometimes overwhelming and distracting, I think some of the CGI, especially involving a younger version of an underdeveloped baddie, is iffy at best (and shocking at worst), and I also do think that some of the dialogue sounds like they were still working with a first draft of the script while shooting the picture. To add to that, some people will absolutely be annoyed by how much it resembles or imitates other established films. Your mileage may vary, but it didn’t bother me too much.
I greatly enjoyed Shawn Levy’s The Adam Project, an ‘original’ film that wears its inspirations proudly on its sleeve. I think it is exactly the kind of fun popcorn film for the whole family that Netflix has been chasing for so long. It is easily the best Netflix original film that Ryan Reynolds has appeared in thus far, it is arguably one of the streamer’s most rewatchable films, and I just know that I would’ve been obsessed with it if I saw it when I was a kid.
7.7 out of 10
– Review Written by Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen.