Time travel films invite scrutiny, perhaps more than any other genre of film. One staple that nearly EVERY time-travel story always adheres to is that you are not to run into your past self. We all know this is a HUGE time-travelling no-no. To do so throws things way out of whack and could in fact fold the time-space continuum into itself, creating a paradoxical implosion that would end the universe as we know it. Or something like that, typically.
"The Adam Project" has a clever take: What if we just don't think so hard about all that time-travel logic? What if we just went on an adventure? It seems simple (and perhaps blasphemous to the diehard sci-fi geek), but throwing logic out the window would allow a person to not only run into their former self, but actually talk, chat, hang-out and even save the world together along with their mini-me.
That's the underlying premise of "The Adam Project," a film that by no means is a "good film," yet it has enough clever dialogue and meaningful moments buried within it to qualify as a passable, family-friendly time-travelling adventure...one that I'd bet will land successfully with kids and adults alike.
"The Adam Project" reteams director Shawn Levy with actor Ryan Reynolds, the pair behind the successful 2021 comedy, "Free Guy." Adam (Reynolds) is from the future, where everything has gone to shit, like it so often does in science fiction. His spaceship narrowly evades a pursuing bad guy, but the dust-up sends Adam back to a different point in time than he had wanted. He tracks his 12-year-old self down (a gloriously funny teenage Ryan Reynolds doppleganger, Walker Scobell) to try to repair his ship, before the baddies catch up with him.
At the moment when Big Adam finds Little Adam, he's at a precarious age. He may love his mom (Jennifer Garner) deep down inside, but she'd never know it and he'd never show it. Their scientist father (Mark Ruffalo) died just a few years prior, and it turns out that dad was actually the father of time-travel (re: the genesis of everything bad that was about to happen). This is all fine and dandy, but Big Adam had a more selfish reason for jumping through time: He's on a mission to reunite with the love of his life, Laura (Zoe Saldana).
Catherine Keener is the terrible woman who is trying to stop Adam, but Adam isn't the only one who decides to team up with his or her former self.
In this universe, none of that paradoxical crap applies, at least not right away (time conveniently allows for the movie to happen before "correcting" itself). Yes Reynolds plays a version of his quippy, egomaniacal character that he's played already in too many movies, but this time around his performance is softened by the "younger Reynolds" who is able to poke fun at the facade. Both versions of Adam help the other to learn about themselves, but there are also some compelling dynamics between father-and-son, and mother-and-son, that are explored.
Look, none of this is hard-hitting, and the action and special effects seem low-budget and Saturday-Morning-Cartoonish...but this isn't trying to be "Dune," or even "Back to the Future." The script, credited to several but overhauled by Jonathan Tropper, is actually laugh-out-loud clever at times...it's the rare script in that it is razor-sharp on the dialogue-level, but the more macro it gets, the duller it becomes. The first-half is more amusing then the action-heavy second-half, but I promise there's enough here for the whole family to enjoy.
I wish I could go back in time, when this project was gestating in Hollywood for nearly a decade and was attached to Tom Cruise, to see what other versions of this story they might have had cooking. Something feels like whatever version this was of "The Adam Project," that it wasn't the best that it could have been.
But sometimes you don't have the luxury of turning back the clock, and you have to work with what's been given. "The Adam Project" doesn't quite make you feel like a kid again, but at least it doesn't age you in the process of watching it.
Genre: Action, Adventure, Comedy.
Run Time: 1 hour 46 minutes.
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Jennifer Garner, Zoe Saldana, Walker Scobell, Catherine Keener, Mark Ruffalo.
Directed by Shawn Levy ("Free Guy," "Night at the Museum," "Date Night," "Real Steel").
"The Adam Project" is streaming on Netflix on Friday, March 11th, 2022.
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