The Adam Project is not going to be the next The Last Starfighter but it’s decent enough as matinee entertainment.
Published on March 16, 2022
Rating 3 /5
The sci-fi adventure of The Adam Project is a pretty simple premise. It involves time travel, starships, lasers, and family. It has some telegraphed gags, some decently staged set pieces, and plenty of adventure. Among the many similar coming-of-age science fiction pictures, there’s nothing all that new here. That being said, it’s a competent enough narrative with just enough energy to be a worthy picture fit for family entertainment.
The story takes place in the present where the 12-year-old Adam (Walker Scobell) is finding his life pretty dull. He’s a nerd in his small town, struggling to get away from bullies and handling a home life where his widowed mother isn’t present. He only has brief memories of his scientist father. Adam’s life changes, however, when he is visited by his future self, played by an eccentric and cynical Ryan Reynolds. Future Adam is one that has become jaded, existing in a world where he has lost everything, and time travel may be the only way to fix his life and the world. He’s careful to not disrupt the future by restraining all the details for a young Adam. That being said, he may let one or two historical aspects slip.
Director Shawn Levy plays this type of adventure fairly loose and makes the wise call for it to be more about the characters than the specifics of the Terminator-style storyline. A lesser film might’ve taken far too long to explain how the future world of 2050 became a dystopian hellscape of technology gone awry. This picture reduces it to three lines of dialogue.
Future Adam: Have you seen The Terminator?
Present Adam: Yes.
Future Adam: That’s 2050 on a good day.
Levy’s approach realizes that the audience coming into this picture is already familiar with timey-wimey sci-fi pictures such as The Terminator. It doesn’t spend too much time on establishing Catherine Keener as the greedy businesswoman seeking to squash Adam by any time-travel means necessary. It keeps the establishing relationship with Adam’s future wife played by Zoe Saldaña to a minimum so they have a quirky back-and-forth that doesn’t linger too long.
The family connection remains firm when the third act involves interacting with Adam’s father, a professor played with great compassion and energy by Mark Ruffalo. The key interactions between Future Adam, Present Adam, and Past Adam’s Father have great energy to them. Reynolds’s cynical commentary is charmingly restrained, Ruffalo’s fatherly appeal is at his full potential, and Scobell makes a compellingly charming kid. There’s an earned sense of fun by the time the film gives him the chance to be a hero, remarking to the bad guys, “Ever been beaten up by a 12-year-old nerd with an inhaler.”
Naturally, for a film by Levy, the special effects are competent. The spaceships look neat and the action-oriented fights and chases are pleasing to the eye. The violence is kept strictly fantasy, the way laser blasts from a rifle and a lightsaber-style spear create only colorful dust and not much blood. That being said, there is a scene where Reynolds is shot and the wound is treated with absurd comedy, trying to make his bullethole fart with every breath. Low-brow, perhaps, but consider the audience for this type of picture.
The Adam Project is not going to be the next The Last Starfighter but it’s decent enough as matinee entertainment. The comedy rarely falls flat even if it never generates a big laugh. The special effects look decent if not completely original in their assembly. It’s ultimately the quirky performances that prevent this picture from zooming straight to the bottom of the Netflix queue, adequately suited for tweens who want some action and adventure.
Mark has been a professional film critic for over five years and a film lover all his life.