You may not have heard, but two Canuck Hollywood Heavyweights have formed a close working relationship lately. Vancouver’s favorite son Ryan Reynolds teamed up with Montreal-born director Shawn Levy to make last year’s Free Guy, one of the few box office hits of 2021 not based on an existing IP (although it owed more than a nod to The Truman Show). With that feather in their cap, Levy was announced as director for the hotly-anticipated third entry in the Deadpool franchise and in the meantime, the pair’s second collaboration has just landed on Netflix; the time-bending actioner, The Adam Project.

Young Adam Reed (Walker Scobell) expects to have to deal with constant bullying at school and fallout at home with his mother Ellie (Jennifer Garner) after his scientist father Louis’ (Mark Ruffalo) recent death. What he certainly doesn’t expect is to come face-to-face with his older self (Reynolds) who has just dropped in from 2050 on a time-jumping jet. Wounded enroute to 2018 to save his wife Laura (Zoe Saldaña) who went missing on an earlier mission, the elder Reed is forced to lay low with his younger counterpart while fending off endless questions about their mutual future/past. Adam becomes enamored with Reed, who reluctantly fills the hole of a missing father figure. 

Before long, the pair are forced to continue Reed’s mission together as they are pursued by Maya Sorian (Catherine Keener), a former partner of Louis who has changed the timeline to her own advantage and sabotaged Laura’s mission. As the two Adams finally reunite with Laura and make it to 2018, they find that the only way to stop Sorian is to prevent the invention of time travel in the first place. But to do so, they’ll need to face the inventor, their father.

Time travel is a difficult genre to write if you allow yourself to get hung up on the paradoxes. The latest fashion is just to have the characters say “it’s complicated, don’t worry about it”, and because a happy outcome is expected, we won’t. Given that, Adam Project ends up rendering as passable, but not very engaging entertainment. It lacks the unique premise and deep philosophical questions posed by Free Guy and whatever R-rated meta-edge the upcoming Deadpool 3 is likely to have. 

While still allowing his patented Deadpool-esque personality to shine through, Reynolds grounds himself here as a damaged soul carrying the emotional baggage of both an absent father and hailing from an apocalyptic future. He certainly comes off better than his younger counterpart in any case as Scobell neither physically resembles, nor effectively emulates his elder castmate. The precociousness hits a point of diminishing returns early on and we never really square the idea that both Adams are one and the same person. 

Some of the slack is fortunately taken up by the adult co-stars with Ruffalo sticking the landing as the affable wide-eyed scientist and caring patriarch while Saldaña makes the most of her limited screen time as Reynold’s high-octane wife. Vancouver once again subs in nicely for whatever American Pacific Northwest city this is (I think I spied a CGI Space Needle somewhere) and you can double your fun by taking a drink whenever it was clearly raining on the shooting day, but the characters fail to notice.

The Adam Project is a slick, satisfying, if underwhelming package of popcorn entertainment that like many of Netflix’s latest features (including Reybold’s own Red Notice), just seems much too large and expensive for the small screen most will see it on (I regrettably missed a one night only screening at Vancouver’s Vancity Theatre on March 9). It’s slick, microwave popcorn entertainment that will entertain for an evening, but is less likely to be a cult favorite later in its shelf life.




The Adam Project is currently streaming worldwide on Netflix

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