Ryan Reynolds Is Good In ‘The Adam Project,’ And It’s Not So Good


Funny thing about Ryan Reynolds. His glib wise-guy schtick is still good, even though he’s getting old. Watching him in “The Adam Project,” it’s possible to appreciate the skill and timing of his comedic delivery, even feeling frustrated at having seen it all before.

It’s not the usual combination of emotions, to appreciate someone’s talent even when the talented person seems to be doing them a disservice. Maybe in opera there is an equivalent, like on those occasions when you hear someone simultaneously give a strong performance while tearing their voice to shreds. By any comparison, Reynolds does himself a disservice by acting the same way all the time, especially in weak movies like “The Adam Project.”

The time travel story centers on a 12-year-old boy, Adam (Walker Scobell), who is going through a rough patch. His dad recently passed away and he’s mean to his kind mom (Jennifer Garner). Then one day, a space man arrives from the year 2050, and he turns out to be Big Adam – Adam as a middle-aged man, a motorized-mouthed wisecracker played by no one else than Reynolds.

Big Adam describes 2050 this way. “Do you know ‘Terminator?’ It’s a good day in 2050.” The problem with Reynolds being good at what he does is that people keep writing lines like that for him – lines that he can say well, that are quite compelling, but at the same time limit the characters he plays.

What follows is a rather confusing story. Big Adam is on a time travel mission to destroy the source of time travel, to kill this technology in the cradle. To do that, he has to go back to 2018, but instead landed in 2022. Big Adam also has other things he wants to do, like find his wife (Zoe Saldana) and meet his long-lost. father, a scientist played by Mark Ruffalo.

“The Adam Project” is so convoluted that at least twice the movie comes to a halt as various characters explain – for our benefit – what’s going on. It’s hard to follow, but the idea seems to be that time has a main flow, and then there are tributaries, where time and events go in the wrong direction. The two Adams are apparently on a tributary, which supposedly explains how they can be together at the same time. Or something like that.

Fortunately, it is not important to understand what is happening. “The Adam Project” may be convoluted, but it’s cheerfully convoluted. He does a few feints in the direction of sense, then proceeds to send Catherine Keener, as a villain from the future, on a mission to kill Big Adam. Each time, the screen suddenly looks like a video game, as the soundtrack blasts out boomer favorites like Led Zeppelin’s “Good Times, Bad Times” and Boston’s “Foreplay/Longtime.” The songs have nothing to do with 2050, 2022, or 2018. They’re just a distraction, although in a movie like this, distractions are welcome.

Still, some things make “The Adam Project” a little better than bearable. In the second half of the movie, Reynolds follows Ruffalo’s lead, and what’s funny about Ruffalo’s performance is that it’s not funny at all. No one seems to have told him he wasn’t in serious drama. So some of the emotional power inherent in the concept of time travel is harnessed, and the film actually improves.

There may be a lesson in this for Reynolds. Sometimes it doesn’t pay to be wise.

** Review

“The Adam Project”

Rated: PG-13 for violence/action, language and suggestive references

Duration: 106 mins

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