Is this time-travelling family film one to watch or erase from the timeline?
There was a time when I would’ve been thrilled for more Ryan Reynolds projects. It was that space between 2016 and 2020 that made it glaringly clear that Reynolds was more entertaining than everyone in the room no matter what room he was in, and that studios had held him back for decades.
After Deadpool, he continued to appear in fairly average-to-bad films from The Hitman’s Bodyguard to 6 Underground, and without fail he has been the most entertaining part of each of them. He started to become the one and only selling point of a movie. Plot, cast and crew be damned, these are all ‘Ryan Reynolds movies’.
And I was OK with that. Like everyone, I find him utterly hilarious, and like many, I found his path to A-list success inspiring and well deserved. Any one of Blade 3, Green Lantern, X-Men Origins or RIPD might have defeated a lesser man, but Reynolds never lacked goodwill from the audience.
But something changed for me post-covid. In 2021, he appeared in three films and I pretty much hated all of them. The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard is the movie equivalent of that stabbing-pain-behind-your-eyes kind of migraine. Free Guy is a crystallised form of all the cynical corporate synergy and homogenisation in the movie industry that makes me ill. Red Notice is one of the most Netflix movies to ever Netflix and that is not a compliment coming from me.
And yet, they’re all Ryan Reynolds movies, featuring more of him than ever before. If he was always the saving grace, surely more of him would result in an actually good film. Right? Well, like anything in this life, Ryan Reynolds comes with diminishing returns. This leads us to his latest film, The Adam Project.
Released mid-March on Netflix, The Adam Project follows pilot Adam Reed (Reynolds) who travels from a dystopian 2050 back in time to 2018, where he meets his younger self (Walker Scobell). Together, the two try to thwart the time-travelling machinations of an evil businesswoman (Catherine Keener), find Adam’s missing wife (Zoe Saldaña), and resolve their issues with their parents (Jennifer Garner & Mark Ruffalo).
This film feels designed from the ground up to be a perfect family film. There’s a relatable cast of all ages, a classic self-contained adventure plot, and a very convenient in-universe explanation for censoring all the blood that should come from shooting and stabbing dozens of people.
It’s also undeniably very funny, getting a few big laughs and several chuckles out of even the most miserly viewer (aka me). The young Adam is one of those American child actors who acts like a sassy adult that I find deeply irritating, but I’m sure plenty will find him charming.
At the end of the day, this is a perfectly enjoyable film. The plot is serviceable if a bit messy and confusing towards the end, the effects don’t wow but they definitely hold up, and the pacing is pretty solid. If you’re looking for your next easy watch on Netflix, there’s far worse out there. So why am I so grouchy about it?
As I mentioned earlier, I think I’m approaching the point where I’m seeing too much of the same thing from him, and it’s getting old. The whole thing is starting to feel a bit masturbatory, something that came across most strongly when the younger Adam whispers the line “superhero landing”, a line made famous by Deadpool.
Over-exposure to Reynolds is starting to make me find him less funny. I’m beginning to notice the patterns in his humour, the particular structure and style of his jokes. Even if I laugh at them, it feels predictable and tired. It doesn’t help when there’s a smaller version of him on-screen recreating it pretty perfectly.
Again, I don’t think this will be a sentiment shared by many, and The Adam Project is genuinely fine for what it is. In isolation, I might have liked it more but I can’t forget everything else I’ve seen in the past six years.
It looks like the rest of 2022 is quiet for Reynolds, so perhaps my irritation is merely a symptom of this post-pandemic splurge of movies will wear off. But for now, I think I’ve had enough.