The Adam Project (2022): a sweet enough 80s throwback

This movie is… OK. I mean, it’s entertaining and heart-warming enough, albeit a bit scrappy in terms of storytelling and action. One point to note is that Ryan Reynolds does some of the best acting of his career, and puts real emotional weight into a couple of scenes. Something I never thought I’d say.

This film was directed by Shawn Levy, who did Real Steel (2011) which starred Hugh Jackman, and was a far better version of this sort of story (sorry Ryan, but Hugh wins this battle). That said, The Adam Project isn’t bad, it’s just not as fantastic as the Netflix viewing numbers seem to say (it’s currently the seventh most popular English language movie created by the studio). For me, it’s on par with another Reynolds recent movie, Free Guy (2021), yet better than another Reynolds recent movie Red Notice (2021). Side note: god, he has a lot out at the moment.

Probably one of the reasons this film has done such numbers is that it’s family friendly, funny, exciting, full of action and is strong with the nostalgia side of the force. I mean, it really is a heady cocktail of 80s references, not least the fact that it shares a lot of DNA with the Flight of the Navigator (1986) and a little with Empire Strikes Back (1980). But it largely gets away with all these nods and references, as its heart is in the right place (which, incidentally, could be a tagline for Reynolds’ career in general).

I’d say that other than some rather cumbersome exposition scenes and weird shifts in tone (particularly for action scenes) my main gripe with this movie is it’s another one where Reynolds has a wife or girlfriend (in this case played by Zoe Saldana) who solely exists to save our hero in some way, and then is more or less a disposable commodity (quite literally). This is known as ‘fridging’, and something Reynolds has accepted criticism of in the past, yet he’s gone and done it again.

I’m not mad, Ryan, I’m just disappointed. Plus, Zoe is a great actor, and completely at home with action sequences. Why not use her more effectively? I do wish she’d had more to do in this film. The same goes for the mother character, Ellie Reed (played by Jennifer Garner). She had a good moment or two, but also felt a little surplus to requirements when it came to the spine of the story which – surprise surprise – is about sons connecting with fathers, and fathers with sons (side note: Hollywood loves a father-son movie).

But before I go down a rabbit hole rant, I guess I just want to say that these are slight gripes. Overall, I was entertained by this film. It’s a nice enough 3 star movie, I just feel Reynolds has more in him, and I hope that one day he shows it. From time to time we get little glimpses of it.

Let it out, Ryan. You know you want to.

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