“The Adam Project” does for nostalgia what most movies these days do for nostalgia- take relics from the past and put them in a barely functioning movie. It stars Ryan Reynolds, contributing another piece of content to his Netflix quota, among a pretty impressive cast of people who don’t get nearly the material they deserve here.
Letting us know that time travel does exist in the opening, the movie has Reynolds, as Adam Reed, crash landing a jet in 2022 only to come face to face with his 12 year old self (Walker Scobell). Reynolds is loaded with information only Adam would know while the kid’s sarcasm game is so strong, it would be hard not to mistake him for Reynolds.
Once introductions are out of the way, there’s the matter of why Reynolds stole the jet, or why he’s been shot, or why a time travel corporation, led by his father’s old business partner (Catherine Keener) is after him. It all comes back to dad (Mark Ruffalo), whose recent death has left little Adam and his mom (Jennifer Garner) reeling.
It also has a lot to do with adult Adam’s wife (Zoe Saldana), who, along with Adam, has been working to eliminate the Time Travel technology, started by Adam’s father, and now being used for nefarious purposes by the evil Keener. Keener, of course, can’t have that so a big chase ensues.
Of what little good is in this movie, the relationship between Reynolds and Scobell is sincere enough to like. The kid’s Reynold’s impression is good and sometimes so are the lines (“does everyone skip leg day in the future”). But the maturity and growth from Reynold’s character makes a good counterbalance to a kid using smart aleck remarks to hide a lot of pain.
This “Back to the Future” meets “Terminator” also gives us light saber fights, hoverboards, fighter jet chases, and provides plenty of conflict whether it be Adam with Adam, Adam and Keener, Adam and Saldana, Adam and his mom, Adam and his dad, his dad and his mom.
In addition to the narrative threads, the film also tries to explain its concept of time travel- an unfathomable explanation of through-lines and tributary lines that thankfully don’t mean a heck of a lot in the grand scheme of following this movie.
The problem is that nothing really feels all that important. When you’re working with a time travel concept, I assume it’s hard to make the audience think everything isn’t going to all work out in the end. “Adam Project” doesn’t even try to do that. It brings out a lot of cool toys we’ve seen before and cranks out the classic rock to action sequences that have no real suspense or reason for investment.
The film is pretty good when it stays with the Adams, and Garner does nice work as their grieving but resilient mom, but adding in so many more characters and confusing explanations and generic action kinda just assures a good cast will struggle for screen time and feel underused, and what strong elements the film had will feel less so by movie’s end.
Rating: 5 out of 10