Del reviews ‘The Adam Project
“The Adam Project” Starring Ryan Reynolds, Walker Scobell, Zoe Saldana, Jennifer Garner and Mark Ruffalo. Directed by Shawn Levy. 1 hour, 46 minutes. Rated PG-13. Netflix.
“The Adam Project” is a perfectly calibrated popcorn flick that pushes all the right buttons. It features a precocious young actor who does not fear the camera, a leading man who can laugh at himself, a leading woman who is tough as the proverbial nails, and a villain as despicable as people who vote a straight party ticket.
In fact, the whole contraption is so finely tuned and calculated that I found myself missing the pop and fizz of 45-rpm vinyl, which is to say it’s a little too polished for my tastes. Oh, it’s a terrific movie and you’ll like it a lot. But the next day you’ll struggle to remember much about it except that you probably should have sprung for a Diet Pepsi to wash down the popcorn.
The story is about the titular Adam (Ryan Reynolds), who steals a spacecraft and wormholes into the past to prevent a tragedy. Unfortunately he overshoots his destination and arrives at the location and time of his 12-year-old self (Walker Scobell), whom he enlists in trying to save the future. In the process Adam bucks up his long-suffering mom (Jennifer Garner), revisits his dad (Mark Ruffalo) and reunites with his future wife (Zoe Saldana), all while thwarting the evil machinations of his former boss, Maya Sorian (Catherine Keener).
What follows is a thrill-park ride of battling robots right out of “Lost in Space,” dodging anachronisms and revisiting the good old days, none of it very demanding of deeply embedded cognitive skills. And you know what? That’s OK. Sometimes a movie is meant to do nothing more than entertain and “The Adam Project” does that and does it well, like successfully parallel parking an Edsel.
Reynolds is perfection as the wisecracking, flummoxed-when-he-should-be Adam, but more impressive is young Scobell, who matches Reynolds snark for snark and even looks like Reynolds, maybe if you squint. Garner is effective as the suffering mom, and Ruffalo is pretty funny in his role as the absent father who must re-learn his priorities if young Adam is to avoid the awful fate of growing up to become old Adam. Less effective, I thought, was Saldana as Adam’s future wife, Laura, who seems perpetually pissed-off. I mean, the fate of the world hangs in the balance and everybody’s trading witty remarks except ol’ buzz kill Laura, who just wants to stab things.
As a story “The Adam Project” keeps its focus on the action, not the novelty of time travel. “Peggy Sue Got Married” and “Back to the Future” both staked their claim on nostalgia – cars with tail fins, ’50s music and fond memories of the people who created and financed those movies. But in “Adam” nostalgia remains a sideshow to the primary conflict between Adam and Maya, and Adam’s desire to reconnect with his wife. It’s nice to see Mom and Dad getting along.
Predictably the movie has received high marks from the public. It’s one of those stories that requires nothing more of its audience than an hour and 46 minutes of their time, a big tub of buttered popcorn and maybe a healthy tolerance of the absurd. Nothing wrong with any of those things, except maybe the popcorn. Pop a Zantac and you’ll be fine.
As I watched it, however, I felt like I was taking a ride through a Universal Studios attraction, where every twist, turn and visual is calculated just so by mountains of data, algorithms and public feedback. Can you complain about a movie being too perfect? Maybe I should just shut my mouth.
I’m giving “The Adam Project” a B+. It’s funny, entertaining, and every now and again touches the heart. It’s a Diet Pepsi in lieu of champagne.
But then, who drinks champagne with popcorn?
Del Stone Jr. is a former journalist and writer.