Why exactly does this movie exist? My best guess is that Shawn Levy (director of Free Guy) just wanted to work with his pal Ryan Reynolds again, and make another one of those large motion picture playgrounds for them to goof off in. I understand that there’s plenty of people out there who are fans of Ryan Reynolds, either because they think he’s got a funny personality or because they can’t help but associate him with Deadpool, but I got to be real here: the man can’t act. So with that, The Adam Project feels like yet another excuse for a director to be a kid again and play with his toys, forcing us all to watch.
There’s not a single tolerable performance by the cast of Levy’s playground, especially by the totally disinterested Mark Ruffalo, who has no chemistry whatsoever with Ryan Reynolds. The fact that the script embraces the neglectful workaholic dad cliché without adding anything new to the trope just makes the performance by this Oscar-nominated actor all the more painful to watch. The script should have instead focused on the time travel aspect of a child meeting his older self, because there are doses of it being quite profound and even heartbreaking, such as the old Adam realizing things that the young Adam doesn’t. Plus, it’s seen how Adam gets dumber as he gets older, which is true for most people when they age. The screenplay also keeps in mind the ways older Adam would be smart, and the ways he would be dumb. Those are different in the ways a twelve-year-old would be smart or dumb. I would like to see more of that concept being played on, but instead, we just get the type of bad acting that makes you want to throw a shoe at the screen.
Weirdly, the action gets to its most boring point in the climax, because that’s when you realize just how unfocused it was all along on how the death of Adam’s father really affects him. In fact, nothing included about Adam’s character ever advances your capacity to care about him, not even his asthma inhaler. But more on the climax, its lousiness mostly is due to the underacting villain who takes over the scene, her terrible acting made twice as bad in ways you never thought could be possible. No cool moments in the movie leading up to this point could ever make up for the bad moments, not even a portal that opens into time and space, which is just another instance of horrendously rushed CGI that plagues every major moment of the story. Even in the few sparks of brilliance that didn’t require CGI, they go by unnoticed. You would never even stop to think about the irony of Adam’s name sounding like “atom” because you’ll be too busy scrolling through your phone out of boredom. There’s no sincere care put into establishing what this version of the future is like (the future year briefly depicted here is 2050), as it even tries to lazily convince us that, “time travel exists, you just don’t know it yet.” …um, okay?
I also should mention that Zoe Saldana is just thrown in here randomly as a love interest, and she’s given nothing else to do besides throw some kicks and make out with Ryan Reynolds. Neither of these actors can do romance, and she’s forgotten from the plot just as quickly as she’s thrown in. On top of that, this may just as well be the worst performance of Zoe Saldana’s career. I would say similarly as well to Jennifer Garner, who isn’t even trying in her role as Adam’s mom. Her character has no depth whatsoever, and she never sounds truly compassionate when talking to her son, which ultimately makes her awfully hard to like.
But nobody will be as difficult to like as Adam himself, not old Adam, he’s okay I guess, I’m talking about twelve-year-old Adam, who’s just an annoying smartass who insults others. Everything about how his character is handled resorts to all the wrong decisions; he’s told too much about his own future, barely reacts to any of it, and you’re given no reason to care when he’s suspended from school for being wrongly accused of starting a fight with bullies. There’s also a scene when his dog is barking when he’s trying to talk, and the poor sound mixing makes it hard to hear his dialogue.
I know that this review is incredibly harsh, so I’ll give one more compliment that this movie managed to be okay at. The image is admittedly quite crisp with such a sharp contrast, which brings better clarity out in the colorful costumes designed by Jenny Eagan (Knives Out, Widows). I would actually prefer if all major blockbuster movies looked more like this, but with better CGI, so there’s one tiny way that this forgettable Netflix original could be something other filmmakers should take note of, especially Marvel.
Sometimes a director wanting to goof off and be a kid at heart in his profession goes well when he’s passionately creating something with a message worth sharing. (For good examples of that, watch The Mitchells vs. the Machines, The Lego Movie, or Disney’s Aladdin.) But here, Shawn Levy only wanted to create a feature film version of a video he must have made of himself with his action figures when he was nine, with no care whatsoever for the medium of film. We all deserve better than The Adam Project, there are so many more constructive ways you can spend your time and craft memories that your older self will thank you for.
If there is a specific movie you’d like to see graded, or if you are interested in guest blogging for my site, please email me at Trevor@TrevorsViewOnHollywood.com for your recommendations.
Have a great weekend, and happy watching!