We don’t deserve Jennifer Garner. Sorry, I know this is a review for a Ryan Reynolds vehicle, so I’m supposed to wax rhapsodic over his quippy roguish charm. Come on. That dude’s basically done the same bit since he was hanging out with another guy and a girl in a pizza place in 1998. He’s like Jack Black, but he can’t even inward sing. Meanwhile, Garner straight-up brings it in every role, while having to routinely interact with Ben Affleck in real life. So no, she’s not the lead in “The Adam Project,” but she’s without a doubt the heart of the film.
In addition to Garner (and Reynolds, I guess), the film features Mark Ruffalo, Zoe Saldaña, and Catherine Keener. Keener plays the friggin main villain! What I’m trying to say, before even saying anything really, is that “The Adam Project” should have been much better than what it is. Because what it is is perfectly adequate, nostalgia-fueled sci-fi that wants to be “Back to the Future” or “E.T.” but is closer to “Innerspace.” What’s that? You had forgotten that “Innerspace” was a thing but now vaguely remember enjoying it? Glimpse into your future, “The Adam Project.”
All that really happens here is that Adam (Reynolds) travels from the year 2050 and encounters Adam (Walker Scobell), a younger version of himself. Elder Adam is attempting to rescue his wife, Laura (Saldaña), and thwart Sorian (Keener) with the help of his father (Ruffalo) and the encouragement of his mother (Garner). Obvious jokes are made, the specifics of time travel are avoided, and Garner does not nearly get enough screen time.
“The Adam Project” feels exactly like what it is: A movie written a decade ago that has worked its way through draft after draft. At one point, Tom Cruise was going to be Adam. Finding someone to play a young version of him would have been as easy as unzipping a scientology cloning pod. Speaking of cloning, nothing here feels original, from the main weapon – which even the younger Adam says is basically a lightsaber – to the thematic message, which is some variation of “Maybe get therapy?” It’s all perfectly fine.
Netflix has finally done it. They cracked the code. It’s not about budget or big-name stars. Crafting a mainstream blockbuster is about being maximally inoffensive and, as much as humanly possible, encouraging audiences to huff nostalgia like lead-based spray paint. Despite the fact that it has time travel and could literally comment on our obsession with the past, “The Adam Project” doesn’t. It can’t. It’s too busy giving Reynolds space to make a family-friendly penis joke or say something like “that did not go good.”
Recently, and over the next few months, you’re going to hear people say “Have you seen ‘The Adam Project?’ It’s pretty good.” And then you’ll never hear about it again. It’ll go into the cultural void that swallowed “Innerspace.” Which is fine. The void can have Reynolds. It just can’t take Garner.
Grade = B-
Other Critical Voices to Consider
Proma Khosla at Mashable says “The low point is a needlessly de-aged Keener, intended to look 30 years younger but also deeply uncanny. Sometimes we can just cast younger actors or ignore the laws of aging.”
Radheyan Simonpillai at Now Toronto says “Reynolds, who seems to be getting soft as his own children are getting old enough to watch movies, doesn’t know his way around sentimental. His smarmy quips can be an armour to vulnerability. The character wears that as a trait. That leaves Garner to do the heavy lifting when it comes to emoting during the movie’s poignant moments. She knocks it out the park.”
Catalina Combs at Black Girl Nerds says “ ‘The Adam Project’ knows its place and even mentions a few of its predecessors in the process. It’s fun to watch a movie that talks about the rules of time travel based on other movies and just dismiss it.”