The Adam ProjectThe Adam Project

A few things to know up front about The Adam Project. If you don’t like time travel movies, especially ones that don’t delve much into details or deal with paradoxes with more than a throwaway line here or there, it’s not the movie for you. If you don’t like Ryan Reynolds being, well, Ryan Reynolds, it’s not the movie for you. And if you prefer movies to break new ground, turn down startling paths, subvert tropes, you won’t find that here. On the other hand, if those aren’t deal-breakers, and you enjoy fast, quippy dialogue broken up every 15 minutes or so with some popcorn action scenes and every now and then with some quietly sincere emotional moments, Netflix’s film should hit all the sweet spots.

The film opens with a bang, with Adam Reed (Reynolds) being pursued in near-space after stealing a “time-jet.” As the bullets fly all around — and even into— him, he opens a wormhole and escapes to 2022. From there we cut to middle-school Adam (Walker Scobell) getting beat up by his regular tormentor, then suspended, then picked up by his mother (Jennifer Garner). The two of them, we learn, are still having trouble with Adam’s father having died a little over a year ago, and though his mother is dating, it’s clear neither have been able to move past their grief. Soon enough, Big Adam meets Little Adam, and the two trade same-style banter as they work together on the film’s major goals, which I won’t spoil here.

As noted, The Adam Project isn’t aiming at anything truly fresh or original here, nor is it much (or at all really) interested in exploring the ramifications/ripples of time travel. But what it does, it mostly does well, and sometimes extremely so. The best part by far is the relationship between Big and Little Adam. Scobell does yeoman’s work here, matching Reynold’s fast-moving snark beat for beat. Their chemistry is simply wonderful. And not just when they’re trading sarcastic commentary either; the quieter, more tender, more human scenes are just as well done. While Reynolds is still riffing on the character type he’s done again and again, he’s more toned down here (a lot more muted than Deadpool or Red Notice) and is also given room to stretch his acting chops a bit, especially in a nice scene between him and Garner that could have dipped into maudlin sentimentality but feels true.

The plot zips along; the film feeling pretty streamlined, and the chase/fight scenes both look good in terms of their special effects/production values and are well choregraphed, even if a few overstay their welcome slightly (a common complaint of mine). It’s frequently laugh out loud funny and more than once we rewound the film to enjoy a humorous scene twice. And fellow nerds will enjoy the numerous references to Star Wars, The Terminator, and more.

The Adam Project isn’t a film that will stay in your head in terms of themes, writing, or visuals. But not every movie can be Drive My Car (the three-hour Japanese film that would get my vote for Best Picture this year). Nor should it be. The Adam Project is entertainingly funny, fast-paced, and action-filled, but also peopled with characters you care about who provide not just the funny lines but also some emotional depth and some universally relatable lessons about loss, grief, anger, and the way our pasts can sometimes too-much dominate our presents (or our futures). I’d call it the perfect popcorn film: sure, it’ll slip out of your memory, but it’s eminently rewatchable, so forgetting parts just adds to the fun of viewing it again.


  • Bill Capossere

    BILL CAPOSSERE, who's been with us since June 2007, lives in Rochester NY, where he is an English adjunct by day and a writer by night. His essays and stories have appeared in Colorado Review, Rosebud, Alaska Quarterly, and other literary journals, along with a few anthologies, and been recognized in the "Notable Essays" section of Best American Essays. His children's work has appeared in several magazines, while his plays have been given stage readings at GEVA Theatre and Bristol Valley Playhouse. When he's not writing, reading, reviewing, or teaching, he can usually be found with his wife and son on the frisbee golf course or the ultimate frisbee field.