'The Adam Project' Feels Like a Mashup of Better Films

Directed by Shawn Levy

Starring Ryan Reynolds, Jennifer Garner, Mark Ruffalo, Catherine Keener, Walker Scobell, Zoe Saldaña

Photo: Doane Gregory / Netflix

BY Alex HudsonPublished Mar 10, 2022

It's become increasingly difficult for Ryan Reynolds to play any character except for Deadpool, as he's now been typecast as a roguish, sarcastic, quick-talking, rascally action hero. In last year's Red Notice he was "Deadpool meets Michael Bay," and with The Adam Project he's in "Deadpool meets family sci-fi" mode.

The Adam Project follows two different versions of time traveller Adam Reed: his wimpy 12-year-old self (played by Walker Scobell) and his cynical adult self (played by Deadpool... uh, Reynolds). When Big Adam shows up in 2022 with a bullet hole in his side and breaks into Young Adam's house, the pair attempt to change the past to fix the present, Back to the Future style.

It's quite delightful to watch Young Adam realize who Big Adam really is — although the pithy backtalk gets to be a bit overbearing, especially when a preteen is doling out snarky zingers with practically every line. ("Does everyone skip leg day in the future?" is surely the sickest burn never uttered by a 12-year-old.) Scobell inevitably gets sucked into doing his own Deadpool impression.

Reynolds is good at this schtick, even if it feels a little repetitive. Luckily, the supporting cast help to pick up the slack: beloved rom-com couple Jennifer Garner and Mark Ruffalo reunite as Adam's parents, marking the second time they've been a couple in a time travel comedy (Matty and Jenna forever!). They way their characters express grief and the loss of a loved one within the context of time travel is The Adam Project's dramatic highlight (even if it dips a bit into the cheesy schlock of The Time Traveller's Wife). Catherine Keener as the corporate baddie steals every scene she's in (although the digitally de-aged version of her character looks a bit uncanny in a way that's hard to ignore).

Much like director Shawn Levy's prior film, last year's Free Guy, the strong cast is the best part of a film that feels like it's been pieced together from bits of other, better films. I dare you to listen to the film's too-loud classic rock song placements ("Good Times, Bad Times," "Let My Love Open the Door," "Gimme Some Lovin'") and not think of Guardians of the Galaxy. The Adam Project is a serviceable family film about time travel — but it's not distinctive enough to resonate across generations.

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