So, is Ryan Reynolds gonna keep on making action films for Netflix that end in electromagnetic chaos?
A couple of years ago, he starred in 6 Underground, another loud and jangly pileup from director Michael Bay. The big climax takes place on a yacht, where Reynolds and a team of killer operatives take out a bunch of baddies with help from a magnetic pulse invention Reynolds activates through his phone. Not to give anything away, but his new Netflix film The Adam Project reaches the same hysterical, metal-attracting crescendo, except with a lot less blood and carnage. (Does Red Notice, that actioner he did last year with The Rock and Gal Gadot, end on a magnetic note? I still can’t get myself to sit down and watch that.)
As with Underground, Adam (produced by Reynolds and the same Skydance Media crew) has Reynolds playing a mysterious, lethal smartass reconciling with his past in order to change the future. He’s a pilot, circa 2050, who takes his time-traveling fighter jet back to the present day, when he was a 12-year-old smartass (Walker Scobell) still working out feelings over the death of his scientist father (Mark Ruffalo). While the adult Adam says that jumping to 2022 was an accident — he was trying to go back to prevent the death of his wife (Zoe Saldana) — he does use the time to knock some sense into his younger self, reminding him to not be such a dick to his struggling mom (Jennifer Garner).
Bumping around development hell for a decade (it was originally titled Our Name is Adam, with Tom Cruise initially attached to star), Adam is some hyper-accelerated sap. At first, it plays like an adorable version of Looper, with Reynolds’s guilt-ridden future man hopping in the wayback machine to do what I’m sure many of us wish we could do: right some personal wrongs. Then, it remembers that it’s a sci-fi popcorn flick, with Reynolds’s Free Guy director Shawn Levy and a quartet of veteran screenwriters going overdrive — and overboard — with the fight scenes, CGI effects, and scientific mumbo-jumbo exposition. From then on, it becomes a relentless mix of sarcastic one-liners and roided-out setpieces (which, for some reason, are set to classic rock tunes by such artists as Led Zeppelin and The Spencer Davis Group).
The plot is predictably wackadoo, especially when both Adams go back in time even further and join forces with the old man in order to stop time travel from becoming a thing. But it’s once again another opportunity for Reynolds — continuing his reign as the Chevy Chase of action stars — to shoot off snide quips while whooping ass left and right. (He mostly does this with a weapon that’s such a clear ripoff of the Darth Maul lightsaber from Star Wars: Episode I, the movie has the younger Adam beat us to the punch by continuously calling it a lightsaber.) He finds a nice Mini-Me in Scobell, confidently picking up Reynolds’s knack for expertly being a wisenheimer.
The rest of the cast — yeah, I’m guessing they needed to make some payments to the IRS or something. As much as Garner and Ruffalo try to keep up with the sardonic tone (Ruffalo and Reynolds certainly ratchet up the snarky slapstick whenever they team up), the 13 Going on 30 lovebirds clearly look like they could be doing a dozen other better things. As the shrill, power-mad villainess who chases Reynolds through wormholes in time, Catherine Keener (another Ruffalo co-star — see Begin Again) looks downright embarrassed to be in this.
As with most time-traveling blockbusters, Adam is pure, quantum-leaping nonsense. But Reynolds and company really want this to be quantum-leaping nonsense that tugs at the heartstrings. I mean, Pete Townsend’s overused “Let My Love Open the Door” plays over the end credits, for Chrissakes! Man, if there was ever a song you wish you could go back in time and halt production on — so it wouldn’t end up in so many gotdamn movies! — it’s that one.
“The Adam Project” streams tomorrow on Netflix.