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Netflix’s The Adam Project Review: Shawn Levy And Ryan Reynolds Time Travel Blockbuster Wins With Heart And Humor For Everyone

In their first collaboration on the 2021 runaway hit Free Guy, director Shawn Levy and star Ryan Reynolds struck comedy gold, and they didn’t waste any time finding opportunity to reunite – with the script for The Adam Project making its way to the pair while their video game-centric action film was still waiting to hit theaters. Jumping into a second project is the true way to test a partnership like the Levy/Reynolds machine, as it tests the possibility of a fluke, and it’s safe to say that their sophomore effort together proves that the director-actor pair knows how to craft a cinematic good time.

Further plunging into the rabbit hole of sci-fi after Free Guy, The Adam Project uses a comfortable concept to dig into a personal family drama. Protagonist Adam Reed (Ryan Reynolds) travels several years into the past, and the shenanigans begin when the hot shot time pilot meets the last person he’d ever want to hang out with: his younger self (Walker Scobell). It’s a plot device we’ve seen before, but the movie is well aware of that fact in its execution.

With the two Adams bonding over the grief of losing their father (Mark Ruffalo) and their difficulty connecting with their mother (Jennifer Garner), The Adam Project has a strong emotional core that grounds its characters – which means that when the crazy sci-fi action begins, the audience can still be invested while being wowed with close quarters combat and high flying adventure set to sick needle drops. Rest assured, this movie has all that and more, and it makes it work beautifully.

Tapping the well of Amblin-style feels, The Adam Project still plays around with Ryan Reynolds’ more mature style of humor.

A common description for films like The Adam Project is “Amblin-esque.” Referring to Steven Spielberg’s production company and the style of films it produced in the 1980s, tales of broken families and friendships under extremely weird circumstances have perpetuated the feel and aesthetic into the present. As a guiding force behind Netflix’s Stranger Things and the director of the robot boxing movie Real Steel, Shawn Levy has earned his stripes in that specific genre sandbox.

What makes The Adam Project such an effective example of “Amblin-esque” is that it plays all of its cards straight from the heart. Adam’s relationship with his parents is the center of the film that drives the story, no matter what hi-tech weapons or insidious threats present themselves, or how crazy the sci-fi action gets. What’s more, neither piece of the puzzle interferes with how the other plays out. 

There’s a bittersweet tone constantly felt throughout the story, but there’s also plenty of classic Ryan Reynolds humor audiences have come to appreciate. It wouldn’t be a proper Reynolds-led picture without at least some snark in the mix. However, that’s something that really needs to be balanced when it comes to a movie that, again, deals with loss and regret over one’s past actions.

The Adam Project strikes a proper balance, as Ryan Reynolds gets to stop Walker Scobell from dropping F-Bombs one minute and has a heartfelt talk with Jennifer Garner about his younger self the next. 

The all-star cast brings their A-game in The Adam Project, with newcomer Walker Scobell holding his own in a star-making debut.

Pulling off such a tonal balance is easier when you have a talent roster like the one The Adam Project calls its ensemble cast. Even before the film’s release, fans have been expressively giddy over how Jennifer Garner and Mark Ruffalo are pulling off a kind of 13 Going On 30 reunion as Adam’s parents. While the pair don’t spend as much time together on screen as some would hope, the chemistry between them is still magical to watch. Not to mention, both actors are forces of nature in their own right – particularly Jennifer Garner, who gets most of the screen time with fresh actor Walker Scobell.

Scobell himself is a particular delight, cast in The Adam Project in part because of his familiarity with Ryan Reynolds’ work. You couldn’t have picked a better young actor to mimic the smart ass nature of his older counterpart, which works on multiple levels. In scenes where he’s acting individually, or with other cast members like Jennifer Garner, Walker Scobell holds his own and steps up to the challenge of such a massive role. When he gets to play against  Reynolds, which is the pairing that really carries the film, the two are an unstoppable team.

While there’s a deeper bench of actors in the cast of The Adam Project, to discuss some of their roles in detail would give away a little too much of the story. As part of the film’s star-studded line-up, Catherine Keener and Zoe Saldana are playing at full intensity along with the rest of the cast – however, if you can stay away from the particulars of their roles, you’ll be better rewarded when you hit the play button on Netflix.

Shawn Levy and Ryan Reynolds prove that their chemistry works on all age groups.

Working with a script by Jonathan Trooper and T.S. Nowlin & Jennifer Flackett & Mark Levin, Shawn Levy and Ryan Reynolds totally get what making an “Amblin-esque” movie is supposed to be. With bold splashes of sci-fi, it’s riding the line between childhood adventure and adult responsibility, with a tone and style of humor that tiptoes up to “mature.” It’s also knowing when to drop the right music cues to amp up the fun, and after watching The Adam Project you will never again hear Boston’s “Foreplay/Long Time” without cracking a smile.

A crazy mix of Timecop and Field of Dreams, the movie offers something for everyone to enjoy. The Adam Project wears its heart on its sleeve, encouraging the audience to do the same as they kick back for a thrill ride that occasionally causes one’s eyes to well up. 

Out of Ryan Reynolds and Shawn Levy’s two films together, the 2022 Netflix production is the comparatively safer feature for a wider family audience, but only by a slim margin. Dialing down the snark just a bit, but never losing its sense of humor, the experience warms your heart. A pure blockbuster with beautiful family drama, The Adam Project is one of the most fun movie experiences we’ve seen so far this year.

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