Time travel + Ryan Reynolds = Fairly fun ‘The Adam Project’

( PG-13 ) ( Monitor Movie Guide )
Doane Gregory/Netflix/AP
In "The Adam Project," from Netflix, fighter pilot Adam Reed (Ryan Reynolds, at left) goes back in time and joins forces with his 12-year-old self (Walker Scobell) to try to thwart a cunning villain.

There’s no denying that “The Adam Project” is a fun cinematic adventure. Just how much fun, though, depends upon your feelings about Ryan Reynolds. 

Ever since the release of 2016’s “Deadpool,” Reynolds has become Hollywood’s go-to star for action and comedy. He’s basically played the same sarcastic, cheeky, and somewhat lovable character in “The Hitman’s Bodyguard,” “6 Underground,” “Pokémon Detective Pikachu,” “Free Guy,” and “Red Notice.”

Reynolds does so again in “The Adam Project,” as fighter pilot Adam Reed. In 2050, Reed escapes a hostile spaceship by traveling back in time to 2022, where he joins forces with his 12-year-old self (Walker Scobell). 

Why We Wrote This

Can a derivative work still be diverting? “The Adam Project” draws on its sci-fi predecessors and the charm of its leading man to take viewers on a mostly entertaining ride.

After providing a few life lessons to his younger incarnation, including treating his grieving mother, Ellie (Jennifer Garner), much nicer, the two Adams then have to travel even further back in time so that they can get the help of their father, Louis (Mark Ruffalo), who died when Adam was 10. All of which they achieve while avoiding Catherine Keener’s villainous Maya, who is following them back through the years. 

“The Adam Project” wears its lofty ambitions and influences proudly on its sleeve. Its plot has similarities with “Back to the Future” and “Flight of the Navigator,” it tries to strike the same emotional chords as “E.T.,” and its fight sequences have clearly been influenced by “Star Wars.”

Not surprisingly, then, considering that Reynolds is doing the same shtick again, too, “The Adam Project” won’t win any prizes for originality. But, thanks to its self-awareness, the sci-fi comedy adventure’s amalgamation of homages never actually grate. 

Director Shawn Levy, who previously oversaw Reynolds in “Free Guy,” and the film’s writers quickly set up the plot and character dynamics within the opening eight minutes and then deliver dramatic and action beats at the right moments.

Even with its PG-13 fight scenes (fast and mundane), “The Adam Project” is surprisingly emotional and affecting. Particularly in how it explores the struggles of parenting and the impact of grief and loss. Not just the long-term anguish those can cause, but how they can ultimately make you stronger.

“The Adam Project” is aided in these pursuits by a mostly stellar cast. The long-awaited “13 Going on 30” reunion of Garner and Ruffalo is just as heartwarming to watch as you’d expect, and they immediately make the perfect on-screen parents. Zoe Saldaña, who plays a soldier sent back in time, as well as Reynolds’ love interest, is also a delight, dispatching bad guys with aplomb while effortlessly bringing cool and poise to the proceedings. 

Doane Gregory/Netflix/AP
Young Adam (Walker Scobell) and his mother (Jennifer Garner) connect in "The Adam Project."

The only major disappointment is Keener. She deserves much more screen time, especially since, when she does appear, she’s so delightfully wicked. 

Which takes us back to Reynolds, who, for the most part, is actually rather charming, magnetic, and heroic. In fact, the only times he frustrates is when he seemingly becomes infatuated with delivering unnecessary sarcastic comebacks and overly written quips.

“The Adam Project” has plenty of those, but thankfully, he gets most of them out of his system in the opening half-hour. From that point on, Reynolds becomes more sincere and natural and, as a result, more captivating and relatable. 

Scobell proves to be a fine foil for Reynolds, too. The longer the movie goes on, and the fewer jokes that are squeezed in, the more enjoyable “The Adam Project” becomes. Sure, it unfolds in a predictable and conventional manner. But it’s still satisfying and, most importantly considering the current state of world, a worthwhile diversion. 

“The Adam Project” is available on Netflix on March 11. It is rated PG-13 for violence/action, language, and suggestive references.

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