Time travel is a popular sci-fi sub-genre and it’s one that, despite it being a rather tired plot device, is always mildly intriguing. Fresh off the success of FREE GUY, Ryan Reynolds teams up again with director Shawn Levy in another adventure comedy. Reynolds hasn’t been shy about admitting that the idea of the movie comes from classic family-friendly sci-fi movies like E.T., Stand By Me, and Back To The Future, and there are definitely plenty of influences from all of those movies in this one.
The movie starts with a 12-year-old boy Adam Reed, still grieving the death of his dad a year prior. His mom (played by Jennifer Garner) attempts to move on by going on a date with her co-worker, though obviously she hasn’t quite gotten over her late husband either. One night, as he walks into his garage and finds a wounded man in there. Naturally the kid thinks the house has been broken into by a burglar, though his golden retriever somehow feels comfortable enough with this supposed stranger, as if he’s known the guy for years. It won’t be a spoiler to say that the man turns out to be Adam’s future self from 2050 who’s now a pilot. He tells kid Adam that he’s on a secret mission involving a time-travel machine and that he accidentally ends up in 2022 which is not the year he intends to travel back to.
Fans of Back to the Future would definitely get a kick out of this movie… not only did future Adam ends up meeting his younger self, he also gets to meet and spend time with both his parents. I have to admit the convo between adult Adam and his mom at a bar is actually pretty sweet. The two Adams don’t initially get along and they constantly bicker while they figure out a way to get to their scientist dad who apparently invented the time travel machine that has now fallen under the wrong hands.
Reynolds is basically playing a variation of himself, the cocky, silly wisecracking dude with a heart he’s portrayed in virtually all his movies. Whether or not that is a good thing depends on how you feel about Ryan Reynolds. I think he can be hugely entertaining in the right project and if he’s got a great co-star opposite him, like Jodie Comer in Free Guy. Walker Scobell on the other hand, is quite a breath of fresh air as kid Adam who is totally believable as a young version of Reynolds. His performance is quite effortless despite this being his acting debut. Watching the two banter is quite fun to watch, especially whenever the asthmatic, skinny Adam is dumbfounded that he’d eventually grow up to be tall and buff like Reynolds look.
Mark Ruffalo completes the father and son(s) trio and the three of them share a lot of scenes together in the action-heavy third act. I had to chuckle seeing Ruffalo play another science guy tampering with time travel after he portrayed Bruce Banner/Hulk in the Avengers movies, though somehow I just notice the rather odd way he talks, it’s as if he’s wearing dentures that don’t fit correctly. Fans of 13 Going on 30 would likely get a kick out of seeing Garner and Ruffalo reunion here as they had played love interests nearly two decades ago. Garner has such an effortless charm and warmth as a mom that I would’ve been fine if the film is more about her. But no, this movie is all about the boys and not much room for anything else… even the romance feels corny than romantic.
Poor Catherine Keener is relegated to playing a clichéd, one-dimensional villain that’s neither intriguing nor menacing. Same with Zoe Saldana whose overdramatic acting seems wasted here, it’s as if she had signed up for something far more substantial that what she ends up with here.
The plot is basically a rehash of a bunch of sci-fi movies you have seen before and I don’t think it really adds anything new to the table. It’s as if this is a culmination of every action adventure sci-fi movies Ryan Reynolds love growing up, some I’ve mentioned above plus Star Wars. Even the weapon used in the movie looks like a double-edged light saber. The spaceship design is pretty cool and the film certainly has the budget for some cool effects, though I’ve seen that type of special effects once too many times. While watching it, I have a lot of questions as to how this time travel thing actually works here, but the movie poses more questions than it really cares to answer.
One thing I absolutely adore in this movie is Adam’s stunning split-level house with a woodsy backyard large enough for a medium-sized family to play on. I had to google if it’s a real house, but as it turns out it was built by production designer Claude Paré on a soundstage on set in Vancouver, British Columbia. If you’re grading a movie based on the art direction alone, this movie would get 4 stars from me. Alas, in terms of direction, originality and entertainment value, I don’t think it adds up to much. Also, for something marketed as family-friendly movie, the amount of swearing with the Lord’s name feels excessive that it’s quite aggravating… but of course it’s too much to ask for mostly-atheist Hollywood to tone down such a thing.
Shawn Levy might have been the right director for the job, it’s just the script is stale and staunchly unoriginal despite having no less than four writers credited. I actually fell asleep the first time I saw it and came back to finish the last 25-minute or so the next day. Now, I don’t think the movie is boring per se, I just think under a more capable hands, it can be something truly special. In any case, I’m glad it’s on Netflix as I certainly don’t think it’s worth the price of a cinema ticket.
Have you seen The Adam Project? What did YOU think?