The Adam Project review: Two Ryan Reynoldses proves to be too much Ryan Reynolds in Netflix sci-fi

Like ‘Red Notice’, it’s another project Netflix took off Paramount’s hands during the pandemic

Clarisse Loughrey
Friday 11 March 2022 06:51 GMT
The Adam Project (Trailer 2)

Dir: Shawn Levy. Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Mark Ruffalo, Jennifer Garner, Walker Scobell, Catherine Keener, Zoe Saldaña. Cert 12, 106 minutes

Netflix seems convinced that they’ve found their new key to success: Ryan Reynolds, a man well-liked by the broadest section of human civilisation. He’s funny. He’s Canadian. He’s conventionally attractive. It’s the full package. In Michael Bay’s noisy 6 Underground, the streamer had him play a vigilante who faked his own death. In Red Notice, he sprinted alongside Dwayne Johnson and Gal Gadot through some set pieces borrowed from Indiana Jones. Were these films good? No. Were they easily consumable? Yes. And that's all Netflix needs them to be.

The trend continues, now, with The Adam Project. Like Red Notice, it’s another project taken off Paramount’s hands during the pandemic. Tom Cruise was replaced with Reynolds. And, here, the star reunites with Free Guy’s Shawn Levy, now apparently one of the few directors allowed large budgets to make original films. The tone here aims for a vague combination of time-travelling romps like Back to the Future and Flight of the Navigator plus time-travelling weepies like Forever Young and The Lake House. It wears both those tones unconvincingly, like a serial killer in a skin suit.

Part of the problem is that The Adam Project is trying to be four movies at once: when we first meet Adam Reed (Reynolds), in the year 2050, he’s hijacking a spaceship and diving into a wormhole, ending up in the year 2022. But he wants to be in the year 2018, in order to find his wife Laura (Zoe Saldaña) who’d previously gone missing in an aborted time-travel mission. He’s ultimately asked what he’d be willing to sacrifice for the good of humanity.

But, after landing in 2022, Adam also bumps into his young self (Walker Scobell). They’re forced to team up in order to save the future and heal a few internal wounds. But that involves tracking down Adam’s dad, Louis (Mark Ruffalo), who’s dead in both 2022 and 2050, and reconciling with a parent who always put work ahead of his own child. But that requires a heart-to-heart with Adam’s mother, Ellie (Jennifer Garner), who’s had to hold down the fort after Louis’s passing. And if you’ve not already tapped out from exhaustion, Adam is also on the run from his evil boss Maya Sorian (Catherine Keener), who monopolised time travel and would like to keep it that way.

Levy, as a director, seems convinced that there is no such thing as too much Ryan Reynolds – and so Adam and mini-Adam’s only shared characteristic is their relentless sarcasm. The actor, when he’s at his most effective, takes up the position of the wry, detached observer. That’s who Deadpool is, at the bottom of it all. But what worked for Free Guy doesn’t sustain itself here, largely because you can’t really have two Deadpools in a scene without giving yourself a headache.

The Adam Project, in that way, feels more like a collection of things than a functional narrative. Saldaña has been airdropped in to do exactly what she did in Avatar and Guardians of the Galaxy – another competent cool girl. Ruffalo’s flustered scientist feels like generic brand Bruce Banner. The action looks slick, but could easily have been copied and pasted from the latest superhero flick. And why did the budget seem to run out at exactly the point they had to apply de-ageing technology for Catherine Keener’s younger self, so that it looks like it was done on one of those iPhone apps? The special effects were a problem with Red Notice, too. Do they think that, on a smaller screen, people just won’t spot it? Or that they’re too busy looking at their phones to care?

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