The Adam Project (2022)

the adam project film review

The Adam Project (2022) Directed by Shawn Levy

This is the kind of movie that would have worked immeasurably well in the 80’s, even more so considering that it is basically a reckless collection of countless narratives already exhausted in cinema, however it is too stupidly sweet and extremely conscious of the sort of movie it is, and that innocent and nonchalant attitude is what prevents me from saying that it is objectively a terrible production.

I think it would be wiser to call it an insubstantial entertainment that never hides its intentions or has ambitious ideas of trying to be something it is not. The Adam Project is a film with no identity of its own, but it is also fair to say that it never seeks to have a singular identity, the level of self-awareness that this production has about what it is and what it certainly is not, is what makes it somehow a passable sugary and innocuous entertainment. That I say it’s an acceptable pop-corn entertainment doesn’t necessarily mean it has an enthusiasm to justify its erratic storytelling, yet its catchy and indiscriminate compaction of typical sci-fi film absurdities coupled with a warmly sinuous superficiality does what a brainless yet indulgent emotionalism should do, and that’s fill you with cloying repetitive music at the most manipulative moments with puerile and contrived sentiments. That’s what this film sets out to do, and visibly that’s what it succeeds in doing, so I don’t see any trace that tells me it tried to do anything other than those modest goals, so I don’t see why I should be harsh on this warm-hearted film.

Time travel in cinema is as difficult to explain as it is to film, and decisively that’s what is most laughable about this film, because it delivers empty minutes to dialogues that are purely argumentative to make sense of the infinite holes in the plot that the narrative has. There is no logic at all and it’s not even supposed to have any, for God’s sake if even for science it’s already a convoluted subject to explain it colloquially, why the hell would a family friendly movie have to get dizzy with it? It’s enough to show that it’s just a time travel, that’s all, that’s the diverting sparks of a common fantasy, coherence doesn’t matter and we’re not even interested in verisimilitude.

What the script harmoniously tries to capture with much affability is the emotional relationship of your current self with the future one, and validly indulges us with the predictability of dramatic sentimentality impossible to avoid in a production with these characteristics, and deliberately seeks at every possible moment some space to force you to cry; it is ridiculous of course, and also abusively redundant, but the narrative is so slippery that we end up sliding with it arriving incredibly fast at the end of the film. It’s a fun cohesion of cheap sentimentality and eye-candy action that moves at the same pace as the overblown perspectives of a video game.

The ersatz exchange of bouncing fast action with family drama is a goofy and obviously flawed way to structure the plot, and I honestly think the dialogue doesn’t help at all, nevertheless the performances equally represent what the film wants to show and don’t go beyond it, something I greatly appreciate, because the performances get out of hand more times than not, and I don’t even want to imagine how insufferable it would have been if they had taken it dramatically serious. As I said, it’s a movie hard to get irritated or bored with, even though it verges on being a bad movie, the fast-paced time goes by in the blink of an eye, to the point where you don’t even know which side you’re on to rate it. In synthesis, it’s kind of like Star Wars meets Back To The Future but done in a silly, candid style, and the ending is a shamelessly blatant, schmaltzy copy of Field of Dreams.

The film is about Adam Reed (Reynolds) who is a time traveler from the year 2050 who has ventured on a rescue mission to find Laura (Zoe Saldana), the woman he loves, who was lost in the space-time continuum under mysterious circumstances. When Adam’s ship breaks down, he is sent spiraling back to the year 2022, and the only place he knows from this time in his life: his home, where his self lives when he was 12 years old.

The Spielbergian method this production has for carrying out a narrative so colorful in details inherent to the blockbuster cinema of the 80’s helps a lot to at least give us a film that understands what it is doing; something that desperately many entertainment filmmakers do not understand. When you have a script with clear conditions, such as making an indiscreet and portentous copy of other narratives that have been done to death, and keeping a conscious eye on the limits of what that entails, it is without a doubt the most important thing to materialize a clumsy but deliciously tender copycat portrait of what has already been done. There is not a single detail in which this production tells us that it has ambitious motives or that it wants to freshly create an authentic film through the clichés of blockbuster cinema, it does nothing of the sort, nor does it even try to do something genuine, and that for me is the best quality of this film, and evidently what makes it a dumb but fun entertainment, and above all naive and simple.

There is nothing more refreshing than watching a movie that knows how abusively cliché it is, this movie acknowledges that, just from the script alone you can tell how straightforward it is in terms of using different classic elements of 80’s American cinema. Ryan Reynolds does what audiences are used to seeing him do, he’s lithely masculine looking, and has the typical cocky attitude of a brawler, though in reality he’s naturally kind and playful; not a good performance per se. In my perspective, when Ryan Reynolds has been a good actor? So why would I have to be so delusional to think he’s going to give a solid performance here, yet it’s also ridiculous to think that in a narrative of such wacky idiosyncrasies you can find laudable performances; I never expected it and I don’t demand good performances either, because I’m aware enough of what kind of movie I’m going into. My expectations are never high going into a movie that just by reading the synopsis you know you’re in dramatically cliché territory.

The film fulfills its role of photocopying what we have already seen in better films, but this writing is not about comparison, rather I would like to rescue the things that are actually positive and competent in this film. For starters, it has an emotional energy that is syrupy and direct, replete with deception and narrative tricks to envelop you in its basic sentimentality, from there you can see why the film works. Yes, it’s true that every manipulative sentimental action ends up being very obvious and very sophomoric in the writing, but it feels tremendously light, usually when exposing big, shoddy sentimentality it ends up falling heavy and soporific, here the emotions are expressed artificially but smoothly, with mellifluous charm. And that invasive atmosphere is certainly just that, intrusive yet magnetic, and it’s impossible to resist such treacly entertaining silliness.

The narrative uses the labyrinthine formula of time travel narration, occasionally it works, especially when it doesn’t take it seriously and simply gets carried away by its incoherencies, however there are extensive sequences where appallingly bad dialogue tries to explain the rules of physics, in a rather delirious and moronic way. The narrative structure is just as nonsensical and sloppy, but of course director Shawn Levy has a few tricks up his sleeve to maintain that accelerated continuity; every time the film loses control, the functional mechanism that steps in to save the flawed is action or gooey sequences. This production likes to disable your brain and gawk at hyper-realistic CGI textures that visually vitalize the dull visuals into something adrenaline-filled, aesthetically akin to a video game. Newcomer Walker Scobell plays the kid, who gives a performance somewhere between disastrously bad to incredibly interesting. I sincerely believe that better dialogue would have helped him a lot.

At times it seems that a kind of tribute is being made to the narratives of science fiction films that popular culture already knows, that chaotic way of paying tribute to other films is not functional nor was it ideal in fact, but even so, the constancy that this production has to ornament the entire film as something uncomplicated and harmless, is what ends up convincing me that many things were done well, so many things well that I ended up overlooking many of the intense flaws it contains.

The Adam Project is yet another enjoyable family movie, a brisk and forgettable entertainment, but still a satisfying film of light-hearted cinema.

Matteo Bedon
About Author

When I'm not watching and studying films, I'm writing about them.
Part-time essayist and full-time film critic.