Since Scott Stuber was made the Global Head of Film in 2017, Netflix has tried to craft films that cater to every kind of demographic. After recent triumphs in the YA romance (To All the Boys I Loved Before), prestige drama (The Power of the Dog) and action (Extraction) genres, the streamer now has its sights on the family blockbuster. While it may copy too many elements from classic films in the genre, Shawn Levy’s time-travel family adventure flick The Adam Project is nevertheless entertaining and perfect for a family night in.
The Adam Project features Walker Scobell in a breakout role as Young Adam, who is grappling with the recent loss of his scientist father (Mark Ruffalo). His world (and time itself) is about to change though, when he encounters Big Adam, a version of himself from 2050 (Ryan Reynolds). Together, the two Adams must travel through time and space to bring equilibrium back to the universe before the capitalistic warlord, Maya Sorian (Catherine Keener), destroys it.
Levy pulls from notable classics such as Return of the Jedi, E.T., Guardians of the Galaxy, and most prominently, Back to the Future, to bolster and liven the aforementioned plot. As such, The Adam Project feels at times like a sci-fi adventure greatest hits mixtape that doesn’t have a unique voice.
This Amblin-lite narrative is mostly rescued by above-average acting across the board. In particular, Ryan Reynolds delivers his best performance since Tim Miller’s Deadpool. The actor’s signature quippy schtick is still present, but it’s countered with earnest displays of emotion during the more intimate periods of The Adam Project. For instance, Big Adam’s brief encounter with a younger version of his mother (Jennifer Garner) is surprisingly poignant and laced with regret. Levy’s latest likely would have benefitted from more personal scenes like this to truly push the boundaries of Reynolds’ screen persona.
Having said that, Levy still has a deft ability to craft fun & fantastical worlds for families. The film’s internal logic for time travel and divergent timelines is well-crafted, even if The Adam Project desperately lacks a Doc Brown-type of character to playfully communicate expository information. Additionally, the cosmic-looking vaporization of the Adams’ enemies is inherently cinematic and a clever way to present death to younger audiences.
At its core, The Adam Project is a tale of grief and loss wrapped in a shiny blockbuster package. While its messages may be a bit too on the nose for adults, Levy’s latest is guaranteed to be a sure-fire hit with families and Ryan Reynolds fans.
The Silver Lining
The most surprising element of The Adam Project has to be its lively action sequences. Every whack and whallop is felt by the audience, thanks to a kinetic camera that moves and shakes with the impact of every blow. Additionally, a seemingly George Lucas inspired super-powered energy staff leads to several sequences that surpass almost every lightsaber fight in the latest Star Wars trilogy.
The Adam Project begins streaming on Netflix on Friday, March 11th.