Ryan Reynolds flies through space and time.
Shawn Levy is an interesting director and I say that as someone who has seen most if not probably all of his filmography over the past 25-ish years. He’s one of those directors that makes enjoyable if forgettable movies, the kind of films you remember one or two lines from if even that. But they are vivid memories. Think back to the Steve Martin Pink Panther movie and you probably conjure up the scene where he tries to pronounce hamburger. What about Cheaper by the Dozen? Night at the Museum? You probably have one or two vivid memories from those films and the rest is kind of a blur.
Unsurprisingly The Adam Project in my opinion is going to fall into the same wheelhouse. It’s the kind of film you walk away from having felt like you didn’t waste 105 minutes of your life, even if you might have some trouble recalling specific scenes or moments a week down the line. It won’t be making any “best of 2022” film lists, but at the same time it hardly qualifies for any “worst of 2022” lists.
The Adam Project had four writers, which is kind of insane to think of because this is as cookie cutter of a concept as you can get. Granted it was made by a group that have worked together heavily in the past, so it might just be a case of nepotism rather than the film actually needing four writers. Ryan Reynolds plays Adam Reed, a time pilot who travels back to the past to save his wife Laura (Zoe Saldaña). Due to a miscalculation, instead of 2018 he ends up in 2022 and encounters his younger self played by Walker Scobell. Adam’s dad Louis is played by Mark Ruffalo. Shockingly Louis is an inattentive dad who dies prior to the 2022 story.
You can figure out where the character plots are going within a few minutes of the film kicking off. Dad is dead and in the wake of his loss Adam and his mom haven’t been getting along too well. Adam gets into fights at school and is generally becoming a troublemaker. You even get the “I don’t understand you” moment to which Adam responds “dad would.” You can also bet as part of the film that Adam will learn to appreciate his mom and the two Adams will go back and reconcile and learn to connect with their dad. The time travel and attempt to save the world is all just a delicious candy wrapper to the nougat filling that is Adam repairing his family’s life.
Surprisingly Walker Scobell does a great job at playing a young Ryan Reynolds, given how make or break child actors can be in these films. There’s an obvious through-line to the young Adam and old Adam that connects them, and I’m not just talking about the scene where they eat exactly the same way. Ryan Reynolds is Ryan Reynolds, effectively the same person he has played in virtually every other movie; the timid shy talking guy who occasionally shows gumption and gets the girl in the end. Mark Ruffalo is very Mark Ruffalo, a nerdy stammering dork who nerds and stammers while stating the obvious.
Zoe Saldaña is always a welcome sight, especially now that she’s not covered in green paint playing Gamora. I had some heavy Where The Wild Things Are vibes coming out of this movie before I realized Catherine Keener, who plays the main antagonist, was the mom in that film. Everyone in this film is fine with no real stand out performances outside of perhaps Scobell who has a curve of not being a crappy child actor. There’s a lot of homages and references to Star Wars, including Reynolds wielding a staff that is constantly referred to as a lightsaber. George Lucas gonna sue somebody.
The Adam Project is very by the books, but it doesn’t feel particularly lazy or cynical as a production. I also feel like Ryan Reynolds himself really likes making these type of movies, and they’re at least partially geared toward his kids. There is a lot of fancy choreography and fight sequences with flashy lights and computer graphics and splosions and it’s all a big spectacle. It actually made me want to see Free Guy, which is the one Shawn Levy movie I haven’t seen yet. There’s nothing that will break new ground in The Adam Project, but all in all it’s a pretty good 105 minutes spent.
It’s not great, it’s better than average.