Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Walker Scobell, Mark Ruffalo, Jennifer Garner, Catherine Keener. Directed by Shawn Levy.
It wasn’t that many months ago that cinemas opened up to welcome “original” movie Free Guy into the world. Derivative but ultimately quite fun the Shawn Levy-directed action comedy starred Ryan Reynolds at his most Ryan Reynolds. They’re back not even a year on with a Netflix film.
The Adam Project sees eleven-year-old Adam (Walker Scobell) still trying to deal with the loss of his father (Mark Ruffalo) and taking it out on his mother (Jennifer Garner) when one day his future self (Ryan Reynolds) shows up, and when an army of futuristic soldiers come following, they have no choice but to go back to meet their father and get his help in putting a stop to time travel.
Levy is a director of easy charm be it a couple of Night at the Museum movies, the fun smash ‘em up Real Steel, or this film. This feels like a flick from the 80s; it’s not hard to imagine Steven Spielberg helming this between The Colour Purple and Empire of the Sun, it’s a fun science fiction romp with a child / man’s relationship with his father at it’s heart. With Ryan Reynolds in the lead it’s fair to say that his usual quirk of quick talking Deadpool-ing happens but the film has a stronger emotional core than last years video game collaboration.
For one thing, Walker Scobell as the young Adam does a fantastic impression of Ryan Reynolds while his wide-eyed kid performance can be a little knowing he reigns it in for an emotional core. It helps that Levy puts the two Adams on-screen with strong support. Ruffalo and Garner, reuniting for another adult / child time travel movie after 13 Going on 30 have easy chemistry in their few scenes, while Ruffalo is great at acting like a confused nerd rattling off science jargon. Zoe Saldana is underused by works well as Reynolds’ wife who aids them at one point while Catherine Keener as long cloak clad cabbie Sorian is knowingly hammy.
The film’s action feels derivative of Star Wars, at some points the soldiers look like storm troopers, the ships and the flying sequences look like the trench run from the original film, and there’s something of the Sith and Keener’s dark clothing clad villain. Reynolds frequently uses a double edged lightsaber – it’s called a lightsaber by young Adam, and young Adam with a helmet on looks like Anakin in a pod-race. But, this is a film aimed at a family audience.
It has an unusually strong emotional heart, the idea of spending time and reconciling with a deceased relative is one that time travel fiction has often dealt with and here it works well, you get the sense that the film is about someone trying to heal over time and Levy allows his performers to really inhabit those moments to great effect.
It’s clear from the long production history and the four credited writers that his has been languishing in development for some time and from its history it’s not hard to see why someone like Tom Cruise would have wanted to tackle this – it’s his sort of movie, but the long time means the plotting is a little bit bumpy and the actual machinations of the plot don’t make much sense. But this is much better when it’s about the emotional core of Adam coming to reconcile with himself.
It must be said the reliance of de-aging technology for Keener is a massive drawback, the wobbly-headed young Keener is laughably bad and as the film ramps up to a climax the reliance of her being there against her present age self is really troublesome. It makes you wish that they had just cast an actor to play a younger version of her as the de-aging technology has its limits and this film showcases it.
Even so, the film is sure to thrill people looking for a little light entertainment and in the process might even find themselves moved by its final act. It’s the definition of corn being popped for mass consumption but in these dark and trying times, sometimes it’s what you need.