One of the nicest thing I can say about a film is that it reminded me of the 1986 classic film The Flight of the Navigator. The story about a boy with his head in the clouds only to find himself flying amongst them is one that was a staple in the late 80’s, and Navigator truly captured that wanderlust feel. This desire to go beyond what is given to you even if you are not sure why you are entirely hellbent on running away. As much as it was a staple of the 80’s it is a feeling missing from many kid’s films today. The exploration is gone, and many films today focus on how to avoid life itself. Thankfully Shawn Levy loves his family film genre, and he is back with another charming delightful in The Adam Project.
Adam (Walker Scobell) is having a tough time, he is still processing the death of his father, he doesn’t connect with his mom Ellie (Jennifer Garner), and he can’t seem to close his mouth which only causes him to piss off some bullies. Adam is smart though; his clever wit may get him in trouble, but it is also useful. Especially when he finds a mysterious man in his garage that also happens to talk, and act like him. Yes, it doesn’t take long for Adam to meet…well Adam. This Adam is from the future and played by Netflix’s new golden child Ryan Reynolds in one of his best performances in years. From the start it is clear that the casting process of young Adam landed on Scobell because he can embody the Reynolds sarcasm with ease. Reynolds who has made a career off of that sarcasm has also been milking it for every ounce for way too long. While many still flock to his films it can grow very tiresome (see Netflix’s Red Notice for further proof), but this time around we finally get to see the pain behind each snarky remark. It also helps that both Reynolds and Scobell have fantastic chemistry making for some humorous moments involving Future Adam’s muscles and young Adam’s constant questioning on how he eventually will become so awesome looking but such a sad sack. It is delightful banter that will have kids giggling and adults laughing in a “laugh at my pain because I have gotten old” manner. In other words it just works really well. As much as future Adam wants to stay and be grilled with insulting questions from his younger self he is on a mission that involves fancy tech and an awesome lightsaber that isn’t a lightsaber. These moments where future Adam fights to keep them safe is a wonderful example of Levy’s ability to show how we all still wish to be a child again. To be able to run in our backyard fighting off bad guys and reaming of a fantastical future. Here future Adam gets to be that kid again and young Adam gets a quasi form dad that he has been missing. But it is clear that future Adam still harbors the pain his younger self could never face and therefore he is not just running away from space cops but also running away from ever being hurt again.
Future Adam reveals that his mission is to go back to the 2008, (he missed the mark landing in 2022) to find his wife Laura (Zoe Saldana) and stop an evil leader of the future Maya Sorian (Catherine Keener asleep at the wheel). Young Adam jumps at the chance to battle future space cops and fly a spaceship but there is only one problem, the biggest problem both Adam’s have; they need their father’s help. It is here where Levy has his most fun, but also hits those family nerves, saving the world is easy but fixing father son issues, well that’s damn near impossible. The Adams’ father Louis Reed (Mark Ruffalo being wonderfully goofy) is still alive in 2008 but is married to his work and finds it is easier to build his son a brand new video game than actually spend a few minutes with him. It is a familiar trope that is elevated by all three actors who make you feel that amongst all the high chase sequences and space fights these are the real stakes that matter. These moments outshine the rather lackluster CGI that includes some pretty awful de-aging as well as a soundtrack that is more “Now That’s What I Call Music 80’s Edition” than it is enjoyable. The thing that The Adam Project does best is remind us that these family live action films still deserve a home if that must be Netflix and no longer movie theaters it is a loss but not a total kill. Families like to stay home together and seeing something they can all enjoy from the safety of their couch isn’t as terrible as it may seem. There is a great sense of wonder that follows throughout the film, and I hope that there is a child watching who sees this and goes, “what will they do next?” Or even better, “what will I make next.”
THE ADAM PROJECT is on Netflix March 11