I just finished watching the film, (seriously, about 50 seconds ago), and felt like typing a review. The Adam Project does something I haven’t seen in a while: it breaks away from a lot of the modern story telling tropes to tell what I would call a classic story. What kind of story? Well, a simple one: “The boy learns a lesson.”
Without going into spoilers, the movie is obviously about a time traveler, (Future Adam), who goes back in time and teams up with his 12-year-old self, (Younger Adam) to stop a villain who is abusing time travel. Along the way, there is a character study about growing up, dealing with the loss of loved ones, how we find ourselves, and rediscovering that the parts of our past that we liked the least may have been some of the best parts that shaped us the most.
Younger Adam is played by unknown actor Walker Scobell, who truly knocked it out of the park as an actor! Not only does he do a great job with the script that is handed to him by ranging from humorous to heartfelt, he nails a lot of the Ryan Reynolds-isms and sarcasm. That style of talking, that oral cadence is very specific, and Walker did a terrific job with it. Ryan Reynolds is very much just Ryan Reynolds; he does a good job being himself, and I don’t fault him for it because that’s obviously why he was cast and a huge selling point of the film. Thankfully, he’s a legitimate actor, and turns up the emotions when needed in the script. He actually has some powerful moments because not only is Future Adam dealing with personal loss, he’s dealing with Younger Adam, who is dealing with Younger Adam’s loss! How do you help yourself through a tragedy? That’s part of the fun of the movie, and I don’t want to spoil it.
I will spoil this though: the movie uses one of my favorite songs, “Gimme Some Lovin'” by The Spencer Davis Group not once, but twice in the film, making this truly a nostalgia trip for me, since I associated that song with my own childhood and listen to it all the time even now. It’s one of the reasons I think movie is a great throwback to movies of the 80’s that would use songs from previous decades in their storytelling.
Speaking of which, the reason I say the movie jumps backwards in time in terms of story telling is because of the near complete lack of social commentary in this film. There are no preachy speeches about saving the environment, rich white people being the problem, or about racial injustice. I’m not saying they aren’t part of the film, I’m just saying the story and script return to a, “Show, don’t tell” method where it’s up to the audience to analyze the film and the movie choose not to filter the experience with any social commentary filters for you. I liked that a lot! It’s a movie that just shows a strong female characters without making them perfect or having to make them unrealistic. In fact, Adam’s mother, (played by Jennifer Garner) is the picture of a woman going through heartache, but by being honest to that experience, the movie connects the audience to her character very easily. We all can see our mom’s in Adam’s mom… I know I certainly did! Yes, strong women can be action girls, (there is one in the film played by Zoe Saldana), but being a strong woman can also mean being a parent struggling as a single mom.
And I really appreciated that! It’s also a movie that let fatherhoood actually be cool and important again, instead of the post-modern beating it usually gets during films that want to focus on toxic masculinity. This movie definitely has a few statements to make about it, but again, it doesn’t bash you over the head with it. And in a very touching way, Mark Ruffalo gets a nice chunk of screen time, just like Jennifer Garner, to show that the relationship between father and son is an important one. It’s also one that many men tend to deal with their whole lives, and the movie doesn’t shy away from that. It even goes the extra mile to deconstruct how our adult perceptions of who are parents were in our past may be off base, and a positive theme of the film is pushing the audience to see their parents and pasts with different eyes.
It does have a lot of modern traits to it, especially in the action scenes, CGI, and stunt work. Thankfully though, those elements serve the plot and the story, not the other way around. Just like in classic films like Total Recall or Back to the Future, there might be some jazzy looking prop or special effect up there on screen, but the prop isn’t the story. It’s not a film about the props. Just like Back to the Future, it’s a story about using time travel as a plot device to help us learn about ourselves and the people we love.
I give this movie a big thumbs up! It’s not a movie you’re going to strain your brain with, and it’s not an instant classic, but it sits in that happy sweet spot that merges being fun and entertaining, with just the right amount of being heartfelt. I never felt like the movie was trying to be completely serious or completely silly, and instead, just aims to tell its story in a straightforward manner without bashing the audience over the head with politics. I think this movie would have tanked terribly if it was done with a, “Ha ha ha, look how much smarter we all are in the future and how dumb everyone was back then!” – attitude that is prevalent in a lot of fiction these days. Instead, the movie just paints a picture and lets you glean what you will.
The Adam Project: if you have Netflix, is a fun ride that will leave you feeling pretty good! It’s an upbeat adventure, and it reminds you to reconsider those parts of your past that you think you want to escape from. It doesn’t shy away from saying that you have to work hard to achieve great things or changes, but it does point accurately at a trend we have as human beings to rewrite our own history in our minds. If you’re looking for a fun popcorn movie to watch on date night, this one definitely fits the bill!