Hints of Back to the Future waft through The Adam Project, a story in which a time traveler meets his younger self and tries to spare humanity from the oppressive future in which the movie begins.
Working from a screenplay credited to four writers, director Shawn Levy (Free Guy and Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian) does his best to freshen a formula that relies heavily on Ryan Reynolds's already established ability to be charmingly snide.
The well-received Free Guy (not by me) paves the way for a Levy/Reynolds collaboration that lacks the intricate maneuvers of the first movie but probably will please some fans.
Me? I’m lukewarm.
Levy tries to give his movie a satisfying emotional core; i.e., a sentimental conclusion with wholesome messages attached, one strengthened by the presence of Mark Ruffalo as Adam’s father, a physicist who assures his son that he really did love him.
Forgive the past tense here. Blame time travel.
A strong cast that also includes Jennifer Garner, Zoe Saldana, and Catherine Keener adds appeal to a movie that employs action and special effects to show Reynolds's Adam Reed stealing a spaceship in 2050, plunging through a worm hole, and landing in 2022, the year in which he was 12.
Walker Scobell portrays young Adam, a quick-witted kid who's bullied at school. He may not be furious with his fists but he's seldom at a loss for words, a quality that sets up lots of verbal byplay between the two Adams.
In 2022, young Adam is ensconced in middle school. He lives with his recently widowed mom (Garner). She’s confused about how to deal with a kid who can't always avoid trouble.
So why is the adult Adam racing through time? He wants to find his wife (Saldana) to alter a future in which she will fall prey to an evil corporate titan (Keener) who’s up to no good no matter what period in which she lands.
Amid the somewhat generic action, Levy delivers bromides about mother/son love and father/son reconciliation, not to mention the way lovers are destined to find each other in whatever time they live.
The supporting cast helps elevate the proceedings, which lean heavily on Reynolds's ability to be the cynical guy who eventually learns that a heartfelt statement can be better than a quip.
No point, delving into plot mechanics. Know, though, that some of the interchanges between the two Adams are amusing and the movie establishes itself as amiably familiar, which -- I guess -- is better than stunningly awful.
Or, as the clerk at the DMV shouted to the long line of license seekers, “Next.”