Review: ‘THE ADAM PROJECT’ A Step Up from ‘FREE GUY’

Just last summer Shawn Levy and Ryan Reynolds were tackling the concept of NPCs in a “GTA”-like realm. Now, the duo takes on something that Marvel has seemingly thrown all of their eggs into the basket of: the multiverse. “The Adam Project” is a sci-fi romp that is far more endearing than the duo’s last outing, and it tells a multiverse story that includes shades of “Back to the Future,” “Avengers: Endgame,” and even the recent “Spider-Man: No Way Home.” Reynolds gives a surprisingly endearing performance, even if the performance includes some Reynolds-isms that are expected in any of his performances from the last decade, making “The Adam Project” a step above what is expected of it and a surprisingly good time.

We’re introduced to the 2050 version of Adam (Ryan Reynolds) in a “Guardians of the Galaxy”-like fashion. In fact, a lot of “The Adam Project” can be compared to that of an MCU movie, but specifically the “Guardians of the Galaxy” movies. The film’s opening features Reynolds in a high-speed chase in space as classic rock plays. “Time travel exists, you just don’t know it yet” comes across the screen the moment the curtains lift. Adam finds himself in a bit of a situation, resulting in him landing in 2022 and recruiting the help of his 12-year-old self, played by Walker Scobell.

“The Adam Project” (L to R) Walker Scobell as Young Adam and Ryan Reynolds as Big Adam. Cr. Doane Gregory/Netflix © 2022

Adam, both young and old, is a Ryan Reynolds character. While Reynolds himself is a bit scaled back in this particular performance, you still get the snide remarks in a fight as he is about to get punched in the face and the sarcasm expected (though Adam still has the decency to pick up a girls’ book that he knocked out while being chased), and this is something that Scobell does well. For as static as most of Reynolds’ recent performances are, and they can grow tiresome, it’s far more likable when it is countered with a dose of Scobell doing the Reynolds schtick. Scobell genuinely felt like a younger Ryan Reynolds, and it was perfect casting. The chemistry and banter between the two make up the best parts of the entire film.

And by Ryan Reynolds being scaled back, it doesn’t mean he isn’t fun in “The Adam Project.” He still has his moments to deliver funny lines, but there are also tender moments. It’s so refreshing to have him remind you that he can actually act. It’s the first time in a long while that he utilized those puppy eyes for good, actually delivering some emotion in scenes where it was required. It’s not an Oscar-worthy performance by any means, but simply refreshing if nothing else.

“The Adam Project” (L to R) Ryan Reynolds as Big Adam, Mark Ruffalo as Louis Reed and Walker Scobell as Young Adam. Cr. Doana Gregory/Netflix © 2022

Like in “Back to the Future,” a film that is referenced in “The Adam Project,” Adam runs the risk of tampering with his past self and other timelines. No, Adam doesn’t go out with his young mom, though Jennifer Garner is quite the catch that is just doing her best (a very understated aspect of the film), but there is a moment where he watches her from afar as she stands on her back porch. He also talks to her in a bar later on in the film, and it’s hard to watch as Adam realizes he can’t do much more than watching her from afar.

Jennifer Garner plays Adam’s mother, Elle. She’s a recently-widowed mother who is trying her best to support her son. Reynolds has a line that says something to the effect of “She wakes up to take care of you and has no one to take care of her,” which will really resonate with anyone close to their mother.

The exposition dumps about alternate timelines, the multiverse, etc. are about as helpful as Hulk’s in “Avengers: Endgame,” which is basically restaged in this film when Mark Ruffalo appears late in the game. I think it was the “Ant-Man” sequel that made the joke about simply throwing the word “quantum” into sentences to sound scientific, and that is dialed up to 11 here. The basic plot makes sense, but anytime a character explains the physics of it lost me. But in all fairness, no one is here for a scientifically-accurate sci-fi film about time travel.

“The Adam Project” (L to R) Zoe Saldana as Laura and Ryan Reynolds as Big Adam. Cr. Doane Gregory/Netflix © 2021

Would it be a Shawn Levy-Ryan Reynolds movie without pop culture reference galore? After all, the third act of “Free Guy” was, in essence, an effort to show off every single IP Disney has in their arsenal, including lightsabers. There are clear mentions of “Back to the Future,” “The Terminator,” and lightsabers. The older Adam actually does have a lightsaber that he wields for more time than anyone in “The Last Jedi,” though for as much as the film wants you to believe it’s a lightsaber, younger Adam basically blurts that out verbatim at one point, it looks like one out of an Instagram ad that looks close to one seen in the Star Wars universe, but there’s just something off about it.

Netflix has a hit on its hands with “The Adam Project.” It delivers similarly to Shawn Levy and Ryan Reynolds’ other collaboration, “Free Guy.” in that it took a cool premise that uses it to its potential (for the most part) with fun performances, needle drops sprinkled throughout (Has “Foreplay/Long Time” ever been used in a film?), and big action. “The Adam Project” is a 90-minute (there is a five-minute scene giving closure to a plot point for future Adam) sci-fi romp that is a fun time for the whole family. It’s by no means a cinematic piece of art, but has Ryan Reynolds ever given a performance that actually elicited emotion?

Grade: B

Netflix will release “The Adam Project” on March 11. The film will also be showing in some theaters beginning March 9. For more info, click here.

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