The Adam Project Fits In With Amblin’s 1980s Movies

(L to R) Walker Scobell as Young Adam and Ryan Reynolds as Big Adam in The Adam Project. Photo credit: Doane Gregory/Netflix © 2022.

The Adam Project isn’t the second coming of Free Guy but it shows that last summer’s Shawn Levy-Ryan Reynolds combo isn’t a fluke.

Every now and then, there’s a film coming out that reminds me of the movies I grew up with. In 2011, it was Super 8. This year, it’s The Adam Project. Steven Spielberg might not be behind this movie but it’s something I could see him producing in the 1980s. This is one of those films that would fit in perfectly with Amblin Entertainment’s output in the 1980s. Not so much the Indiana Jones movies but the likes of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Back to the Future, and The Goonies. The best kind of movies are those that feel personal and this is the vibe I get from watching The Adam Project. Tonally speaking, it’s a film that makes us laugh and cry. Moreover, there are no shortages of Star Wars easter eggs and there’s a real Field of Dreams moment near the end. Way to make me cry, guys!

I’ve watched Avengers: Endgame so much during the pandemic that I can warn you that time travel isn’t the best idea in the world. The thing about time travel is that time has a way of punching back. This film is no exception to the rule especially when it comes to Darth Vader-esque Maya Sorian (Catherine Keener). In this case, Adam discovers something in his day (2050) and attempts to jump back to 2018. But because he’s under attack, he ends up in 2022 instead. It’s by complete accident that he ends up teaming up with his younger self (Walker Scobell) before going to 2018 to find his late father, Louis (Mark Ruffalo). Adam’s reunion with his father would be impossible if not for going back in time to find his wife, Laura (Zoe Saldaña). Of course, things happen and one thing leads to another.

The Adam Project
(L to R) Ryan Reynolds as Big Adam, Mark Ruffalo as Louis Reed and Walker Scobell as Young Adam in The Adam Project. (Netflix) © 2022.

There’s something to be said about the overall storyline between parents and children. Adam didn’t have the best relationship with his mother, Ellie (Jennifer Garner), after his dad died. You can certainly see how Louis’s death impacts Adam. One can make the argument that his childhood is what shapes his future path. There are interactions in this film that really make you cry especially the moments with both Adams and Louis knowing that they’ll never see him again. It’s not a broken family in the Spielberg sense (children of divorce) but in the Disney sense where animation films typically require the death of a parent. That Adam and Louis are the same age when they see each other makes for an interesting dynamic in their relationship. Keep in mind that it’s been over 30 years since Louis died!

In terms of casting, can I just say that I love the 13 Going On 30 reunion that we’ve got going on? Maybe it’s purely coincidental but it’s one of those fun movie moments. It’s the reunion that many of us knew we needed and I absolutely love it. Although I didn’t write a formal review, I did a rewatch in early October and still enjoyed it. Thank you for doing this, Shawn! I know it’s not a direct sequel but I’d love to see them do another comedy together! Of course, this isn’t the only cast reunion going on. Mark Ruffalo and Catherine Keener have a Begin Again reunion.

The Adam Project
(L to R) Jennifer Garner as Ellie and Mark Ruffalo as Louis Reed in The Adam Project. (Doane Gregory/Netflix) © 2022.

Ryan Reynolds brings his trademark comedy banter and action sequences that we know him for. I especially love some of the sequences between the two Adams especially when they’re coming from different viewpoints. One can only wonder how long it took for Reynolds and Scobell to match each other’s patterns. There’s also a funny sequence between Adam and Louis later on in the film, too. It kind of makes you wonder how Deadpool and Bruce Banner would interact! Adam only has one scene together with Ellie but it’s a scene that makes it all worth it. Bring the Kleenex because you’re going to need it! Maybe it is because of the nostalgia but I think this film just became my favorite Ryan Reynolds movie.

It’s a sci-fi film but it doesn’t feel too sci-fi in terms of the visuals. In terms of cinematic visuals, Tobias Schliessler’s cinematography is right up there with the Amblin films that we all know and love. Framing, lighting, you name it! I absolutely love Claude Paré’s production design work here. There’s some easter eggs that audiences will enjoy, too. The costume design also throws in an homage to Back to the Future because young Adam wears a vest much like Marty McFly. The futuristic clothing isn’t too futuristic like other sci-fi films. Whether that’s what people will be wearing in 2050 remains to be determined. Time travel may be a driving factor of the film but it’s about characters and heart at its core.

You’re in also for a treat when it comes to what happens when people from the future are killed in this film. Digital Skittles! Parents, let me tell you right now: it’s not the bloody kind of violence. The violence in the movie is along the same lines as the aforementioned Amblin movies.

It isn’t only the cinematography and visual effects that pay homage to the Amblin output. Rob Simonsen’s score could go up against any single one of those films. I cannot wait to listen to the score outside the context of the film. Much like the classic John Williams themes, Simonsen’s “The Adam Suite Theme” is well one the way to becoming a classic movie theme that we can’t stop listening to. The composer could have gone the futuristic route but instead he keeps it simple–slightly sci-fi but simple. Netflix, please make sure to push Rob Simonsen’s original score during the awards season!

Together as producers, Levy and Reynolds have made a beautiful film together. I’ve watched twice already and the film improves on additional viewings. It’s kind of funny–last year, Red Notice inspired me to start writing a screenplay (not that I’ve worked on it much). This time around, I started to get the sparks of a sci-fi comedy idea within two days of watching in February. There’s something about nostalgic films and wanting to make the type of movie you grew up watching. This is what the movies are all about. I’ve been a Steven Spielberg fan since as long as I can remember. I am not doing what I’m doing without Jurassic Park. What I love about The Adam Project is that it’s an homage of sorts to Spielberg’s films. The big difference, of course, is the improvement in visual effects.

In previous years, The Adam Project would be the type of film that would crush it at the box office. It’s a 1980s movie at heart. The type that nobody seems to make anymore. It’s a sci-fi film about family, characters that we can relate to, and of course, it also stars Ryan Reynolds. Put it all together and it’s a recipe for success. Free Guy was one of the biggest box office earners last year but alas, this isn’t a 20th Century Studios film but a Netflix release. While it won’t get the massive box office, it will have a lot of views on Netflix. It’s too early to tell if it will have more views than either Red Notice or Don’t Look Up. Regardless, Levy and Reynolds have great chemistry together and I can’t wait to see what the duo does next together. Maybe Real Steel 2?

Maybe it’s because of the film’s Amblin nostalgic factor but The Adam Project is one of the best pictures of the year. My only fear is that the March release is too early for The Adam Project to be seen as a serious awards contender. The year is still early, of course, but this film is a solid contender for The Solzy Awards of 2022. A number of highly anticipated films are due out this year but The Adam Project is a throwback of a gem.

DIRECTOR: Shawn Levy
SCREENWRITERS: Jonathan Tropper and T.S. Nowlin & Jennifer Flackett & Mark Levin
CAST: Ryan Reynolds, Mark Ruffalo, Jennifer Garner, Walker Scobell, with Catherine Keener and Zoe Saldaña

Netflix will release The Adam Project on March 11, 2022. Grade: 5/5

Please subscribe to Solzy at the Movies on Substack.

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.