‘The Adam Project’: In fun time-hopping adventure, Ryan Reynolds joins forces with his younger self
The rib-tickling, mind-bending action/comedy on Netflix finds the star in prime quip-and-rip form.
When you travel back in time, the one thing you must not do is make contact with your younger self, because if you do … I don’t know, worlds collide and the timeline fractures and both versions of you will probably just explode and DON’T ASK ME FOR SPECIFICS, MAN!
Nevertheless. First we saw LeBron James kicking it with his younger self in that Super Bowl ad, and now Ryan Reynolds — who should know better, what with being Deadpool and all — teams up with a mini-RR in the breezy, offbeat, time-bending and mind-bending Netflix action/comedy “The Adam Project.”
Reynolds re-teams with his “Free Guy” director Shawn Levy for a second straight winning blend of comedy, thriller and CGI actioner, and he’s in prime quip-and-rip form. But the breakout star of “The Adam Project” is young Walker Scobell, who plays the adolescent version of Reynolds’ character and does a remarkable job of capturing Reynolds’ trademark speech mannerisms and rapid patter. This is a fully realized performance that goes beyond the novelty of a kid doing a stunt-impersonation of a famous actor, as Reynolds and Scobell display true buddy-movie chemistry.
Netflix presents a film directed by Shawn Levy and written by Jonathan Tropper, T.S. Nowlin, Jennifer Flackett and Mark Levin. Rated PG-13 (for violence/action, language and suggestive references). Running time: 106 minutes. Available Friday on Netflix.
Let’s go back to the future for the beginning of our story. The year is 2050, and the title card tells us, “Time Travel Exists. You Just Don’t Know It Yet.” The Spencer Davis Group’s “Gimme Some Lovin’ ” is blasting on the soundtrack, and hotshot rogue pilot Capt. Adam Reed has stolen an airship that penetrates a wormhole that catapults him … somewhere.
Cut to the year 2022, as a 12-year-old kid races through the halls of his school before his tormentors catch up with him and the lead mean kid punches him and says, “Oh, I’m going to enjoy this.”
“Who talks like that?” says the kid. “Did you go to like a Bully Starter Kit on Amazon or something? I mean, do you even hear yourself?” Only a harsh punch to the gut silences the little wisecracker. Yep, that 12-year-old is young Adam Reed, and as we learn when Adam’s mother Ellie (Jennifer Garner) picks him up at school, it’s been just a year since Adam’s dad died, and he’s obviously having a tough time and getting into bad scrapes. (“He’s twice your size!” Ellie says of Adam’s bully, to which Adam retorts, “Everyone is twice my size, I’ve seen babies bigger than me!”)
Later that same evening, while Ellie is out on her first date since her husband passed away, the family dog chases something he hears in the woods, which leads young Adam to his late father’s garage/workshop — and there’s grown-up Adam, badly injured and wearing a flight suit. Look how Hawking the dog (the dog has to be named after a scientist in movies like this) nuzzles up to this stranger, and that’s because Hawking is the first to figure it out: These two Adams are the same guy, 28 years apart.
Once young Adam processes the mind-boggling reality that his grown-up self has accidentally crash-landed in 2022, we learn Adam had a wife named Laura (Zoe Saldana) who was killed and he had been trying to go back in time not to 2022 but to 2018 in order alter the course of certain events. Also, Adam’s dad’s former friend, business partner and financial backer, Maya Sorian (Catherine Keener), got rich off his time-travel tech (known as the Adam Project) after he died and turned into some sort of ruthless villain, and she WILL be pursuing Adam, no matter what time he’s in.
It’s complicated. ALL time travel movies get complicated.
After Laura rescues Adam(s) in a rousing laser battle sequence set to the sounds of “Good Times, Bad Times” by Led Zeppelin, she reminds Adam he shouldn’t be hanging out with younger Adam: “Parallel contact, babe?!” and Adam says, “Well, you always said you wished you had met me earlier.”
The two Adams team up to time-jump back to 2018, even though they and Laura realize this will set off a chain of events that will mean Adam and Laura will never meet. Once we’re back in 2018 (look, Hawking is just a puppy!) we meet Adam’s dad, the work-consumed professor Louis Reed (Mark Ruffalo, in classic distracted-genius form), who also scolds the Adams (“You can’t be anywhere but your own timeline!”) before agreeing to help them set things right and defeat Maya, who of course exists on this timeline as well. This allows for something of a father-son do-over, in which past misunderstandings can be cleared up, and how about Mark Ruffalo and Jennifer Garner once again playing a couple some 18 years after “13 Going on 30,” which had its own supernatural element involving an adolescent and their adult self?
With echoes of “Back to the Future,” “The Terminator” and even a little of “Heaven Can Wait,” this is a consistently entertaining comedy-actioner with a lot of heart — and the perfect ending. Fine work, Adam(s).