The Adam Project Review: Ryan Reynolds Takes on Time Travel in Netflix’s Latest

Ryan Reynolds is at his most Ryan Reynolds-y in this good natured family sci-fi.

Ryan Reynolds and Walker Scobell in The Adam Project
The Adam Project (L to R) Walker Scobell as Young Adam and Ryan Reynolds as Big Adam. Cr. Doane Gregory/Netflix © 2021 Photo: Netflix

He’s a charming devil, that Ryan Reynolds. And even if he is a bit like a subway sandwich – every roll (role) tastes the same – when it’s a flavor that you like, it doesn’t matter. If you’re on board with Reynolds’ gobby, boyish, charisma, coupled with his convincing action chops, The Adam Project is for you. Added bonus: in The Adam Project you kind of get a double helping of Reynolds sauce. 

Reuniting with his Free Guy director Shawn Levy, Reynolds plays fighter pilot Adam Reed from 2050, who crash lands back in time to 2022 where runs into his 12-year-old self. Little Adam, played by Walker Scobell, is a mouthy nerd with asthma, who’s great at video games and even better at getting beaten up by the bigger kids. Big Adam is a buff cynic who has lost loved ones and seen the world turn into a post-apocalyptic nightmare. This trauma has not changed Adam’s sense of humor, so the main hook of the film (certainly in the first act) is the banter between Adam and his younger self who have to team up to save the world. It’s fun, and it’s funny and Scobell is a convincing mini-Reynolds, though it’s a truth that the movie somewhat acknowledges that the young version of Adam treads a fine line between cute and irritating. 

A bit like the movie, really.

For better or worse there’s a lot going in The Adam Project. The main premise, along with Jennifer Garner and Mark Ruffalo’s casting in supporting roles as Adam’s parents, means the Thirteen Going on Thirty vibes are strong – this feels like a spiritual sibling to the age-up, and body-swap style comedies of the 80s and 90s. With the time travel element, however, The Adam Project takes a sharp turn into genre territory, and not entirely successfully.

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Catherine Keener is cacklingly evil as the time-traveling despot who only wants Adam to return to the future she controls (and if he won’t, she’s going to kill him). Keener is flanked by a legion of faceless goons, who Big and Little Adam take out in a series of flashy set pieces, aided by futuristic weaponry that Little Adam is very much enamored with (just as well these goons are faceless, otherwise we’d be watching a 12-year-old joyfully murder a series of strangers…) The gadgets and spaceship chases have Star Wars vibes, with Reynold channeling Han Solo and Scobell on the right side of The Phantom Menace Anakin. And the time travel, along with the Daddy- and Mummy- issues that come with it, is pure Back To The Future.

If it wasn’t packed enough, add Zoe Saldana into the mix as a lost love interest from the future, who is a total badass and really isn’t in it very much, as well as all the sciencey macguffins you can eat. While you’re trying to get your head round exactly what the rules of the exploding thingy that the gang has to do something or other with are, and which exact time travel model the film is following (we think it’s the Grandfather paradox), The Adam Project tries to distract you with emotional whammies. 

The Adam Project has it all: romance and lost love. The meaning of death and what a life well lived entails. The nature of memory. Learning to love yourself (yep!). And spaceships and robots and light sabers and all sorts.

So it’s a bit messy as a film. But it’s also unapologetically good natured. It’s schmaltzy, sweet and nostalgic, and while this is nothing like Don’t Look Up tonally or stylistically, there’s a particular scene between Big Adam, Little Adam and their dad that does very much have echoes of the “We really did have everything, didn’t we?” moment in that apocalyptic vision. We don’t think it’s much of a spoiler to tell you that The Adam Project is nowhere near as bleak and nihilistic as Don’t Look Up. It’s more of a hug your mum, play catch with your dad and snuggle the dog vibe. Or alternatively, cuddle up with your loved ones, watch The Adam Project, bask in it’s benevolence, or pick apart its flaws: whatever is your pleasure.  

The Adam Project is available to stream on Netflix on March 11.


3.5 out of 5