The sci-fi adventure film The Adam Project possibly proves that the best potential for chemistry in a Ryan Reynolds movie is to have him paired up with a Mini-Me version of himself. This isn’t a deep or intellectual sci-fi film, but it is a nicely antic romp with some decent attempts at pathos and emotion. Also, the flick is smart enough to call itself out on when it’s ripping something off, dropping references to Star Wars lightsabers and the dystopian time-travel wrecked future of Terminator. There’re funny quips, sci-fi action spectacle and classic rock needle drops that makes for a breezy bit of entertainment.
Young Adam (Walker Scobell) is 12 years old and living with his mother, Ellie (Jennifer Garner), after the passing of his father, Louis (Mark Ruffalo). One day he finds an older man (Reynolds) at his house who was injured crashing his fantastic space plane who turns out to be him from the year 2050. Big Adam is trying to set right a future that has gone sideways due to time-travel, masterminded by the nefarious Sorian (Catherine Keener). Big Adam is trying to find his wife, Laura (Zoe Saldana) who was literally lost in the timestream, but he ended up crashing in 2022. Now he needs young Adam’s DNA code to unlock the time traveling space plane and jump back in time to meet their dad and stop time travel from being invented. But Sorian is back from the future with a crew of goons and looking to stop the Adams and family once and for all.
Reynolds gets to do his standard quipping and bits of heartfelt moments, the difference here is his sidekick is a smaller, younger, tween version of himself. Scobell does a pretty bang-on impression. There’s even a meta moment when Young Adam jumps in to save Big Adam says “Superhero landing” like in Deadpool. Of course, the prospect of two Ryan Reynolds sarcastically quipping their way through an adventure could get tedious fast. But Adam, both versions of him, often has it pointed out when he’s acting like a jerk. Even older Adam admits he feels bad about how much pain he put his mom through. Mostly, the dynamic between young and old Adam is that he’s constantly irritated by himself which makes for some good jokes. There’s a bit when young Adam is being picked on by bullies and the older Adam encourages him to fight back but young Adam is immediately smacked down. Then the older Adam gets some years simmering catharsis by hollering at the bullies about how they can never pick on young Adam again.
Saldana’s Laura is mainly a plot piece to get the film moving, however she does get in big exploding action and a dynamic last stand. By usage of digital de-aging trickery, Keener pulls double duty as both the future and modern version of herself. It sort of works, in the single shots of ’22 Keener it looks convincing but when they put the real Keener next to the digitally younger Keener it falls apart. Digital de-aging can work in small doses, but it gets trickier especially when it’s beside the real deal. While the character is sort of generic baddie, Keener adds a lot and the way she is eventually dispatched is neat. As the parents, both Ruffalo and Garner deliver earnestness. Ruffalo gets in some sarcastic quips which makes him feel like the proper father to Adam. He has some good reactions, like when Louis pulls out a contraption from a time machine that could potentially doom the planet and he just goes for it. There’s a few solid moments from Garner who seems genuinely frazzled at dealing with young Adam. In a good scene, older Adam anonymously meets his mother in a bar and he admits her son cares about her.
Directed by Shawn Levy (Free Guy), Adam Project pulls from various sci-fi franchises sometimes a bit more transparently than others. Adam has a telescoping electro staff thingie that Young Adam immediately says, “That’s a lightsaber”, although it operates slightly differently with a concussive force impact setting. When the bad guys get splattered, they turn into a flash of exploding light which Big Adam explains that eliminating someone from a fixed timeline “gets messy”. The finale features a big glowy thing in danger of exploding which happens in lots of sci-fi action movies but looks neat. The film’s time travel logic is that when someone goes back and changes events, their future version’s memories will reconcile with what has happened. Young Adam excitedly asks if it’s a multiverse and Big Adam snaps back that he watches too many movies. The bit about memories pays off for a decent string of closing scenes, even if the movie takes a little while after the climax to finally end.
The Adam Project doesn’t break any new ground in the sci-fi action-adventure genre, but it is a sturdy entry. It doesn’t have the manic chaotic energy that the previous Levy/Reynolds movie Free Guy had, but it does have some time travel magic, colourful explosions and just enough emotional bits to make it endearing.
The Adam Project
Director: Shawn Levy
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Walker Scobell, Mark Ruffalo, Jennifer Garner, Catherine Keener and Zoe Saldana