Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Walker Scobell, Jennifer Garner, Mark Ruffalo, Zoe Saldana, and Catherine Keener.
Directed By: Shawn Levy
Where I Watched It: Netflix
English Audio Description Available?: Yes
The Plot: Adam (Reynolds) is from the year 2050, in a world where time travel is possible. But, in order to solve a tragic mystery, Adam must travel back and team up with his younger self (Scoville), who is still dealing with the rather recent death of their father, in order to prevent the villain (Keener) from achieving her endgame.
What Works: Having recently seen Free Guy, another collaboration between Levy and Reynolds, i was a bit worried that this movie would be just OK. Honestly, Shawn Levy is a competent director, but he’s not in the top echelon. His films are accessible, with Night At The Museum perhaps being his best work. Though, they’re all kind of in this fun, good not great zone.
That being said, i loved The Adam Project, and it is easily the best thing Levy has directed since Museum, and better than Free Guy. It’s full of a ton of heart, fully realized and fleshed out characters, and a brilliant casting choice in Walker Scobell.
It’s hard to find a child and ask them to pretend to believably pull off being Ryan Reynolds while sharing the screen with him. The charm in this film is the dynamic between these two, and Reynolds has spent years crafting his very specific way of delivering his humor, and somehow Scobell managed to pick up on it right away. His uncanny ability to imitate Reynolds takes this movie right to the top.
But what keeps it there are all these little moments that keep the movie grounded, and not just some science fiction slapstick nonsense. Jennifer Garner does some fine work here as Adam’s mom, and there’s a really sweet scene between Garner and Reynolds that will get you all choked up.
Even Zoe Saldana and mark Ruffalo keep this film emotionally connected, as each of their characters has a scene, some words of wisdom, and tie the whole movie together. Everything is so much more mature than I expected from a movie like this, especially considering Free Guy, which attempted a little bit of connection, but was far more concerned with the action and the comedy.
Here, it’s all about the relevance of these characters and their relationships to each other. Even when the film has some cool action sequences, or Reynolds just doing his thing, it still seems to come back around and remind you of the stakes. It’s very well done, and somehow feels like a love letter to something.
There’s so much of it that it feels so inspired by something in the screenwriter’s past, or just an amalgamation of his past experiences. The ending will break your heart a bit, and also lift you up. It’s a happy.sad ending, one that rarely works, but somehow manages to here. This is what happens when you fully invest in character development, good actors, and let that play out.
What Doesn’t Work: I didn’t care much for Catherine Keener’s villain, not that we’re supposed to, but there isn’t much set up given to her. We see her build into a villain after the fact, after the time travel happens, and we later meet a version of her in the past that is different from the version stalking Reynolds the whole movie. My nit picky thing would be to develop her motive a bit more at the top of the film, so we know what’s up with her, because she spends so much of the film barely being one dimensional. We learn little bit by little bit about what she wants, but it plays out over the course of the movie, and most of it after she’s been established as the antagonist.
Oh, and, her main henchman… there’s a point where he should have died, then later he’s alive and somehow survived what looked to be very unsurvivable, and was just ready to go. Maybe I missed something that wasn’t in the description, but that dude should have died at one point. I can’t say where, cause that would be a spoiler, but I have a feeling you’ll be left scratching your heads too when he’s still alive later.
The Blind Perspective: I’m trying to get this section to be a bit more helpful. So, the audio description for this film was given a Herculean task. First, it’s for a science fiction action film, genres that are often not quite as fun for the blind community. Second, to make life harder, two characters interact with younger versions of themselves.
The action sequences here are well described. Often I find myself wondering where we are, because the film misses a scene transition, when there clearly was one, but that didn’t seem to be happening here. I will say that this narration, the mix of it against the original audio track, will push the limits. There are times when the audio description has to fight to be heard over these intense action sequences, but those don’t last very long, so don’t keep adjusting your volume. Just roll with it, it’ll only last for a few seconds in a couple of places.
Where this description could have improved is exactly where you’d expect. I sympathize with whichever unfortunate soul wrote this, because you correctly picked up on the immediate need to refer to “adult Adam” and “young Adam”, and there were still a couple of times where both Adam’s were present and the distinction was dropped. I made the choice in my mind to always default to Reynolds and Adult Adam in those situations, because they were always in combat sequences, and it made more sense that the adult version would be doing something instead of the 12 year old.
however, there was at least one instance with Keener’s character where she wasn’t labeled as a”a laptop flew into her hand”. in that scene, I couldn’t figure out which one got the laptop. Also, unlike Adam, who is consistently referred to by one name, Keener’s character is confusingly referred to in both the audio description as Maya and the Young version of herself. The inconsistency in labeling her character causes confusion, and it might have been better for the audio description to never refer to her by her first name, and maintain the same balance they did with the Adam character, with just a young/old differential.
But, films like these are one in a million, and I can understand how the ball got dropped a couple of times. Mostly, this description is terrific, and the science fiction elements and action sequences are really well done.
Final Thoughts: So far, my favorite film of 2022. Of course, it’s March, and this is the 15th film I’ve seen with a 2022 release, so that’s not saying a lot, but still. How good this film is, and how much i enjoyed it is still kind of blowing me away. Usually, Netflix movies, these blockbuster wannabes fall short. Red Notice, Bright, and Project Power all come to mind. But this didn’t. It’s villain could have had a bit more backstory at the beginning, but otherwise, I’m very pleasantly surprised.
Final Grade: A-