Hollywood has a new powerhouse duo as The Adam Project finds Shawn Levy and Ryan Reynolds teaming up once again to deliver a Netflix sci-fi family drama.
It’s not hard to see why the director/actor combo teamed up again after their smash hit Free Guy hit theaters last year – a film that has its fair share of charm but overall felt a bit too needy and incessant on using IP iconography in the worst spots. It’s okay to have easter eggs and small gestures that resemble another franchise or film series, but when your movie’s climactic ending revolves around a lightsaber and Captain America’s shield, it might be time to head back to the drawing board.
For this new effort, Levy and Reynolds are aiming for something fresh. The Adam Project isn’t the same crowd-pleaser that Free Guy was. It doesn’t grasp at the low-hanging jokes and rhetoric that the latter film did, and this new effort is grounded in deeper, more thoughtful emotion and relationships. Long gone are the streamers and vloggers that appeared in Free Guy!
But it’s hard to see where The Adam Project wanted to go past that. The film is filled with science fiction wallpaper and doesn’t have a coherent set of principles or rules. The plot feels like it got away from its writers and, like nearly all of Ryan Reynolds’ work nowadays, it relies heavily on the Deadpool-like delivery and nuance of its lead protagonist.
The supporting cast is filled to the brim with successful actors and actresses, but none of them leap off the screen in any way. Walker Scobell, who plays Reynolds’ younger self, is probably the best of the rest, but it’s not one that calls for some sort of renaissance in acting circles.
The movie centers itself around Adam Reed teaming up with his younger self in a time-travel, save-the-world genre mashup. On the surface, it seems generic, but loaded with potential to expand on the ideas that previous efforts in this lane have set up. Unfortunately, The Adam Project doesn’t do any of that and is content to go through the conventional motions of its contemporaries.
Its plotting is messy (and honestly, quite confusing. During its final action-heavy moments, I turned and had to ask multiple times what the team was hoping to accomplish here) and doesn’t successfully set up the rules and boundaries of their world – something that science fiction films have to get right.
The science fiction elements are painfully generic. Its clear that The Adam Project had to be science fiction and the creative team developed the laziest way to introduce the genre’s most cliché elements. It has the spaceships, futuristic weapons (hell, even a brutally obvious lightsaber knockoff), and CGI noise, but none of it amounts to anything. It’s all wallpaper for a script that’s equally lazy and uninspired.
Shawn Levy’s childlike imagination shines through at a couple moments. The director of Reel Steel, Night at the Museum, and Cheaper by the Dozen brings a few nice flourishes and gorgeous set designs together to create a futuristic atmosphere that pairs well with the tone.
Even if the film doesn’t completely come together, it’s a nice change of pace thematically from Free Guy. Its coming-of-age-adjacent commentary on relationships with your parents as you grow hit home for me. There’s also a nice undertone of self-deprecation with Ryan Reynolds here, too. Particularly in the drawn out, more reserved delivery that he chooses to go with on this project. It’s not in your face the same way Free Guy or Deadpool was.
My goal heading out of The Adam Project was to not be worried about putting Deadpool 3 in the hands of this creative team, and I can’t say those worries were eased after this viewing. This was a pretty lifeless and directionless film. It doesn’t get off the ground past its most basic elements and the story felt like absolute nonsense at spots.
It has a heaping amount of heart and a dash of whit, but The Adam Project failed to deliver the breathtaking science fiction blockbuster that Netflix was hoping it would. There are moments of serviceable emotion, but its messy in so many ways past that. Here’s to hoping they don’t mess up the Deadpool superhero juggernaut next!
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