Released: 11th March
Seen: 29th March
You know what I kinda miss? Those old cheesy family films that weren’t trying to be cinematic masterpieces but were basically pastiches of popular films that had kids doing cool stuff and a lot of stupid moments, the last one of those that got a wide release was The Kid Who Would Be King, a fun, frivolous little film about a kid who got King Arthur’s sword and had a big silly adventure. It was nice to see this kind of film get a brief comeback but ever since then it’s felt like no one has bothered to try again… until The Adam Project came along and hit me right in the nostalgia.
The Adam Project follows a 12-year-old who is surprisingly named Adam (Walker Scobell), a geeky kid with a smart mouth and asthma who is trying his best to cope with the grief of his dad dying. Of course, this means he’s occasionally overly sarcastic to his mother Ellie (Jennifer Garner) and also gets suspended from school. It’s on one of those days home during his suspension that he finds a mysterious man in his old shed, a mysterious man who appears to have been shot and seems oddly comfortable with his dog… a man who is also named Adam (Ryan Reynolds) who has come back in time in order to not only save his wife Laura (Zoe Saldaña) but hopefully beat the evil Sorian (Catherine Keener) who is chasing him through time in order to stop him.
The Adam Project is absolutely bare-bones simple in terms of what it’s trying to do, a very simple sweet story about a boy who goes on an adventure through time with his older self and doing that allows him to not only deal with the grief of losing his father but actually gain some confidence that he’s been sorely lacking and it works so well. The time travel is well used and explained (though, as I’ve said in previous time travel movies, the rules of time travel don’t actually matter because it’s merely a plot device so stop thinking about them) and when The Adam Project wants to be an emotional heart-stopper it can do that, especially any time they throw Zoe Saldaña on screen and just let her break the heart of the audience with one or two creative lines.
Throughout The Adam Project, we are blessed with a few pretty creative action scenes, both in terms of how they’re shot and how they keep the violence down to a level that’s acceptable for the rating they’re going for. Watching Ryan Reynolds and a bunch of Power Ranger-looking bastards fighting with discount lightsabers is objectively cool and I will not hear a bad word about it. Indeed whenever the film thinks it might have had enough of cute interactions or some mild comedy, then they’ll pull out the lightsabers or an invisible jet and make something blow up in a cool fun way because The Adam Project is mostly just trying to let the audience have some fun and doesn’t need to be much more than that.
Now it also helps that the main cast is pretty much stuffed with people almost designed to please audiences. The crowd who loved 13 Going On 30 (AKA Suddenly 30) get the joy of having Jennifer Garner and Mark Ruffalo sharing scenes again, the crowd that loves badass women gets Zoe Saldaña and Catherine Keener kicking ass and taking names while the crowd who loves that quippy guy who is basically a human cartoon gets Ryan Reynolds so there’s something there for everyone. The big surprise of The Adam Project is the discovery of Walker Scobell who manages to perfectly copy the comedic style and energy of Ryan Reynolds, to a degree that shouldn’t be possible at his age. If this kid doesn’t blow up and turn into one of the next big stars, I’m going to be shocked because this is a star-making performance.
Now sure there are problems here and there, the story of The Adam Project is kind of basic and repeats the same kind of cliché story that this kind of film was known to do back in the 80s and 90s, there are a few moments where the characters are basically just human quip machines with nothing else going for them and it’s hard to deny that everyone is leaning into old familiar characters (Reynolds is quippy but badass, Ruffalo is scruffy science daddy, Keener is an evil woman in caftans, you get the idea) and it feels very much like we’ve seen a lot of this before with very little new to justify it… but god damn, if you’re going to play the same notes I’ve heard before then please play them this well.
The Adam Project might be derivative and a little simple for what it could be, but there is so much charm and sweetness here that it’s hard to even be a little mad about it. It’s still loaded with some incredibly well done action and genuine heartbreaking emotion, the bright spots shine brighter than the stars in the sky and it’s hard to deny that a good time is easy to have with a film as fun as this. It’s definitely a bit of a throwback, albeit with 2022 levels of CGI to help make it look good, but this project is a solid B+ and that’s enough to get the job done.