• Nate Adams

'The Adam Project' review: Ryan Reynolds stuck in another choppy and convoluted sci-fi adventure


Courtesy of Netflix

 

I still maintain the position, despite how enjoyable the movies are, that “Deadpool” has typecasted Ryan Reynolds for all eternity as the wise-ass quipster whose jokes and shtick run thin because it’s the same thing over and over. What’s the definition of insanity again? In the early days of Reynolds’ career (“Waiting” and “Van Wilder”) there was an untapped aurora about the actor that has since been repackaged ad-nasum thanks to the aforementioned foul-mouth superhero (which is about the only time Reynolds’ antics work because it befits the character) and the likes of “Free Guy” and now Shawn Levy’s equally muffled and artificial Netflix adventure “The Adam Project.”


Reynolds still remains an immensely likable presence who’s quirks and easy to digest comedic delivery resonates with massive audiences. One can appreciate everything he’s striving for in “The Adam Project” (I laughed occasionally) but it’s disappointing how the movies he chooses can’t resist leaning into the same pubescent humor seen in every single film he does. So when a movie like “The Adam Project,” a struggling coming-of-age thriller about time travel and the mechanics of space, tries to pull on the heartstrings it comes up empty handed. I yearn for the day when a filmmaker or creative team understands Reynolds is much more than a one trick pony.


“The Adam Project” centers on 12-year old Adam (Walker Scorbell - a real find) who is reeling from the death of his father and lashes out his frustrations on mom (Jennifer Garner). It’s a standard set-up that takes a turn with the arrival of an interdimensional time traveler from the year 2050. The kick? The displaced spaceman is Adam (Reynolds), now in his mid-forties and on a mission to retcon past events to stop nefarious billionaires from exploiting their late father’s work (and to track down his missing wife played by Zoe Saldana). Well, it’s more complicated than that: Adam meant to go back to 2018, but accidentally landed in 2022 and now wants to reconnect with daddio, meanwhile Catherine Keener, who gets horribly de-aged, is trying to make sure past events stay-in-check.


Trying to keep up on the narrative becomes a tireless and monotonous exercise. Levy, who directed Reynolds in “Free Guy,” tries to juice the soundtrack with an array of needle-drops (Led Zeppelin and Boston) in the hopes of evoking nostalgia for the days of Amblin-targeted kid flicks, but the color-coded sci-fi action sequences are mechanically unhinged and never lock down a clear focus. Sprinkle in Reynolds comedic zingers and it becomes a recipe for disdain. You’d assume the emergence of Mark Ruffalo, playing Adam’s father, would cultivate magic or chemistry between the two mega-stars, but instead Ruffalo looks like he’s in a completely different movie. Scorbell, on the other hand, makes an interesting companion to Reynolds who inadvertently steals the show from both of his co-stars.


It’s obvious Levy is trying to make his “Back to the Future,” but he kinda-sorta already did that when he helped deliver “Stranger Things” to the masses. There’s some clever ideas baked into the DNA of “The Adam Project,” but all the film will probably be is a blip in the Netflix algorithm and then quickly reshuffled into the deck until another aimless Reynolds project comes along to ironically remind us why we forgot this one existed in the first place. Does anyone remember “Red Notice?”


Grade: D+


THE ADAM PROJECT streams on Netflix Friday, March 11th.