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The Adam Project is a highly entertaining crowd-pleaser full of heart. Director Shawn Levy brings visual polish to Jonathan Tropper, T.S. Nowlin, Jennifer Flackett, and Mark Levin’s sci-fi drama screenplay. However, its high-concept scope doesn’t overpower The Adam Project’s intimate exploration of family and memory.

‘The Adam Project’ mixes time travel with family drama

'The Adam Project' Ryan Reynolds as Big Adam and Walker Scobell as Young Adam looking up at blue light in the forest
L-R: Ryan Reynolds as Big Adam and Walker Scobell as Young Adam | Netflix

Big Adam (Ryan Reynolds) travels back to the past from 2050. However, he accidentally lands within the wrong time period. Adam ultimately finds himself in the year 2022, where he comes across a 12-year-old version of himself (Walker Scobell). Young Adam is grieving the loss of his father (Mark Ruffalo) along with his caring mother, Ellie (Jennifer Garner).

Big Adam and Young Adam are from different time periods with a lot to learn from one another. They must work together if they hope to survive Maya Sorian (Catherine Keener), who has sinister plans with the time-traveling technology. The fate of the past and the future rests in their hands.

Director Shawn Levy engages in a difficult genre-balancing act

The Adam Project makes it known that time travel does exist. The world simply doesn’t know it yet. Time travel in storytelling tends to get convoluted rather quickly, but Levy’s film doesn’t get lost in it. The Adam Project acknowledges the typical rules that go along with this technological advancement, using it as a tool for character development.

Levy balances several genres throughout The Adam Project. It combines action, sci-fi, adventure, comedy, and drama, but the film gives each genre the opportunity to shine. The action is perhaps the least developed aspect, but the film’s heart and spirit truly transform it into the special experience that it is.

The Adam Project is a family story at its core. Big and Young Adam are in vastly different stages of grief. Meanwhile, they hold varying views regarding their mother, displaying how relationships within the family change over time. Levy explores the notion that time contorts memory, challenging the idea that all wisdom comes with age. The Adam Project shows the strength of understanding the kid within all of us, but having a greater ability to express those feelings.

‘The Adam Project’ is crowd-pleasing, Amblin-esque entertainment

'The Adam Project' Zoe Saldana as Laura and Ryan Reynolds as Big Adam point a gun toward the camera
L-R: Zoe Saldana as Laura and Ryan Reynolds as Big Adam | Doane Gregory/Netflix

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Reynolds plays himself here, but he brings a certain earnest quality to the role that makes his passion for this story quite apparent. Scobell expertly adapts to Reynolds’ sense of humor, capturing the actor’s cadence and mannerisms to perfection. Reynolds and Scobell have radiant chemistry that allows the humor to consistently land. Garner is a particular standout, injecting The Adam Project with the movie’s most emotional moments.

Unfortunately, Maya and her squad are one-dimensional. Keener leans into the character with some fun delivery, but the role lacks depth. Maya is often an after-thought, simply added as a way to increase the stakes for Adam. There are a few entertaining action set pieces to come from these confrontations, they lack the urgency found in the film’s more personal moments.

Hollywood doesn’t really make movies like The Adam Project anymore. Much like Reynolds’ Free Guy, it’s original source IP that relies on a high-concept story with big-name actors. However, this sci-fi adventure introduces a certain sincerity to its quieter moments composed of family drama that audiences of all ages can connect with. The Adam Project emotionally resonates on a level that major studio feature films have been trying to return to for years.

The Adam Project hits Netflix on March 11.