Help yourself

- Richard Edwards

Ryan Reynolds reunites with his Free Guy director Shawn Levy here, but The Adam Project owes more to Stranger Things, Netflix’s ode to ’80s Amblin (also produced by Levy), than the duo’s recent adventure in videogames. Look past the present-day setting and this time-travel actioner is an unashamed riff on Steven Spielberg’s greatest hits, populated by pop culture-literate characters who communicat­e plot points in terms of Back To The Future and The Terminator. If only The Adam Project was as memorable…

Red Dwarf fans will experience Ace Rimmer-shaped déjà vu as Adam Reed, Reynolds’s pilot from the future, travels back in time to meet himself as a boy. It turns out he was the sort of 12-year-old who only exists on screen: stupid enough to repeatedly talk himself into fights, yet smart enough to name his dog Hawking and get his head around the finer points of temporal mechanics.

But for all the thriller angles about a mission to find Adam’s AWOL wife/fellow pilot Laura (Zoe Saldaña), this is unmistakab­ly a vehicle for its leading man; if there’s an app that helps writers to [insert wise-ass Ryan Reynolds dialogue here], then the ones behind The Adam Project have clearly taken out the deluxe subscripti­on plan. The crucial difference here, however, is that the Deadpool star’s trademark snark emerges from two mouths, with Reynolds’s young co-star Walker Scobell doing an impressive job apeing the mannerisms of his character’s older self – you totally believe you’re watching the same person separated by a couple of decades.

Unfortunat­ely, The Adam Project is neither as funny nor as fun as it wants to be. The action sequences are competent rather than exciting, as legions of lightweigh­t, stormtroop­erimperson­ator bad guys get bumped off in an effortless, family-friendly manner. The poorly written, evil-for-evil’s sake villain – out to exploit the film’s convenient rules for time travel – also wastes the considerab­le talents of Catherine Keener.

Even though The Adam Project struggles to match Amblin’s greatest hits in most regards, however, it does nail its emotional beats in the finest tradition of ET and The Goonies. Yes, it’s over-sentimenta­l at times, but as the two Adams become an unconventi­onal mutual support group – helping each other come to terms with the loss of their father (Mark Ruffalo) – the movie grows into a surprising­ly touching exploratio­n of bereavemen­t.

And at the very least, it’s good that Netflix is making the sort of non-franchise sci-fi blockbuste­rs that rarely get a look in now that the multiplexe­s are dominated by superheroe­s.

Tom Cruise was attached to the movie in the early stages of its developmen­t; back then it was known as Our Name Is Adam.

A surprising­ly touching exploratio­n of bereavemen­t

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“This your emergency call button, granddad?”
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