The Adam Project is An Underwhelming Netflix Thing

I’ll write this off as a case of bad expectations. Based on early reviews and the synopsis, I went into the movie expecting an 80’s-style movie that was literally set in the 80’s (like Turbo Kid or Stranger Things). Instead, it was a present-day movie that barely captured the magic of an 80’s-style movie. I honestly didn’t even want to finish it – ten minutes in, I pretty much knew it would be mediocre quality throughout, and I was right.

But. I sat through it anyways, because that’s what Netflix expects of me. So here’s my take on what does and doesn’t work. In fairness, it’s not a bad movie… But it really doesn’t deserve the hype. And truth be told, I’m glad it’s on Netflix and not in theaters, because it feels like the typical middle-budget Netflix junk food they specialize in churning out.

What Doesn’t Work

I hate to say ‘Ryan Reynolds’, but he plays the exact same character in every film he’s in. That gimmick worked in Deadpool and nothing else. Not Free Guy, not Red Notice, not anything I’ve seen him in. He’s such a polarizing character type – either you love him or you don’t, and I’m in the ‘don’t’ camp. So I guess if you like Ryan Reynolds… You’ll like him in this. Because he plays Ryan Reynolds.

Other things that didn’t work… The special effects are okay. They were barely convincing on a small screen, so I can’t imagine this playing on a big screen. Certain ‘dramatic’ plot beats aren’t convincing either (they’re hit or miss – maybe I just can’t take Ryan Reynolds seriously…).

Oh, great product placement from Cheerio’s. Love that in our movies.

This is a commercial, reminding people to eat MnM’s

Another thing that threw me was that it’s set very deliberately in 2022. So, for the entire runtime, I couldn’t help but think: ‘is this secretly a Covid movie?’ Spoiler alert: thank the lord, it’s not. And I understand why the specific years are important, because it’s a time-travel story, and the years they jump back to matter. But I couldn’t help but be cynical, given how awkwardly some movies have tried to tie in a Covid ending.

Another issue – apart from the punchy, snarky, ‘I’m Ryan Reynolds and I’m funny’ ad-libbing that drives me crazy… Some of the dialogue is painfully eye-rolling. ‘Stop being a scientist… Be a father.’ ‘Sometimes it pays to be a nerd‘. It certainly fits with the middle-budget feel of the film, and generally it’s not even that bad. It’s that frustrating middle ground where it successfully moves the plot again, and occasionally made me laugh. But I won’t remember any of it ever. It’s like a fricking Touchstone film…

Tangent for a second: Touchstone films. I don’t get the appeal. Somebody explain. They’re not good.

But back to The Adam Project

Actually, another tangent for a second. I just thought of this. You know what is a good 80’s film, which is actually from the 80’s and is criminally underrated? The Manhattan Project. It’s about a genius kid who builds a nuclear bomb, and it plays like a toned-down parody of the high-concept 80’s teen sci-fi movies that came before it. And it’s amazing. Watch that instead.

Okay seriously, back to The Adam Project. Last complaint. The scenes with Mark Ruffalo felt eerily similar to Avengers End of Games. I don’t understand why you wouldn’t just pick another actor, unless you’re trying to recreate the feel of a Marvel film. Which seems like a cheap way of making audiences feel comfortable. ‘I remember a Marvel movie where Mark Ruffalo talked about time travel – I feel safe and reassured seeing this exact same dynamic play out in a lower quality film’. Maybe Netflix is smarter than I thought…

What Does Work

That said… Mark Ruffalo is unironically funnier than Ryan Reynolds. I laughed more at his three jokes than all however-many-hundred that Reynolds made. I was disappointed that they don’t introduce Mark’s character until 50 minutes into the film… And like I said, it’s basically Bruce Banner again. But he’s a good actor, and he’s fantastic as always.

Speaking of good actors – the highlight, by a mile, is Walker Scobell, who plays young Ryan Reynolds. Not only does he capture the quirks and style of Reynolds, but he does it in a way that isn’t obnoxious. I.e. he’s a believable young Reynolds, and he’s an endearing character. He feels like he’s ripped straight out of an 80’s movie, in a good way. This is his only role so far, but assuming he continues acting, he’s got a bright future.

Oh, Jennifer Garner is also in it. She’s good.

Yeah, that’s about it. Everything else is mediocre and not worth highlighting. Again, despite what the internet may tell you, there are better things you could be watching this weekend. Like The Manhattan Project. Or The Batman. Or an 80’s movie. Or Mad Men. Or The Get Down. Or Midsommar. Or Twin Peaks. Or The Office. Or The Shining. Or-

Rating: 4.6/10