Take all those 1980s movies that you know about – you know the ones (“Back to the Future,” “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” and “Return of the Jedi”), and imbue them with charm, lifelessness and an unbearable Ryan Reynolds performance, and you have “The Adam Project.” It is a trite, hokey, smarmy movie that takes all of your dad’s favorite FM hits and crams them into a movie. It doesn’t matter if they fit or not, they are getting played.
“The Adam Project” is the latest lifeless big-budget release that Netflix has under its belt. With stars like Ryan Reynolds, Zoe Salanda, Jennifer Garner and Mark Ruffalo headlining, it is a sure-fire hit to get viewers to tune in. The beautiful people are going to fight, make jokes, tug at your heartstrings — and you are going to watch them do it.
Journey-man filmmaker Shawn Levy (“Real Steal,” “Night at the Museum,” “Date Night” and several episodes of “Stranger Things”) is Reynolds’s latest pet in helping deliver movies where he gets to play himself. Levy is a very functional director. The pacing will be tight, geography of action will be clear and the comedic beats will always land.
You have to admire Reynolds for it. With his last string of movies (“Free Guy,” “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” and now this), he has been able to just show up and be Ryan Reynolds. That’s a pretty sweet gig. The trouble is when a movie wants to be Spielbergian-lite in its illusions of grandeur schmaltz, having Ryan Reynolds play himself will not allow the moments to land. Particularly a scene towards the end of the movie that gets to borrow from “Field of Dreams” with its imagery and be heartfelt and sincere. But as the audience we can only go, “That’s Ryan Reynolds! Nice try movie!”
And dear reader, for this reviewer, that moment landed with all the grace of a slip-n-slide at fat camp.
There is nothing inherently bad about “The Adam Project.” It is a tried-and-true formula being utilized here, not dissimilar for the superhero movie formula that Marvel has down pat by this point. What is admirable is that “The Adam Project” is original material. Sure, it borrows from other things, sometimes blatantly. For example, a mid-movie chase was ripped straight from “Return of the Jedi.” It isn’t a sequel or remake, though, so that immediately gives it some positive points.
However, it loses all of those points when it does nothing with that originality. Instead, it is full to the brim with plot and very little resonance beyond the broad strokes of “be nice to mom” and “enjoy the good before it is gone,” and other Nickelodeon messaging that you’ve seen and heard time and again. It strives to be like all those classic blockbusters but forgets to imbue itself with the very thing that made those iconic: life.
All of its “moments” try so hard, to be something instead of letting the audience let it become something based on the resonance it will have. The movie shoves the puppy into your face – never mind the fact that you are trying to calmly tell it you are allergic, you will get a face full of puppy.
It’s not the worst thing ever. There are certainly worse out there, but I was impervious to the charms of the movie and found its attempts grating and eye-roll inducing, resulting in a nothing-burger of a motion picture.
1 out of 5 stars.