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SYFY WIRE reviews

Critics say Netflix's blockbuster 'The Adam Project' a breezy, heartfelt '80s sci-fi throwback

The Adam Project flies through a wormhole and onto Netflix Friday, March 11.

By Josh Weiss
The Adam Project PRESS

Does The Adam Project — the second cinematic team-up between actor Ryan Reynolds and director Shawn Levy — carry the same charm as last summer's Free Guy?

The first reviews for the movie (hitting Netflix tomorrow) are in, and it sounds like the dynamic duo has another crowd-pleasing, albeit imperfect, hit on their hands. Generally described by critics as a throwback to the beloved sci-fi Amblin romps of yesteryear (think E.T. and Back to the Future), The Adam Project is a time travel dramedy with real heart and a healthy dollop of Deadpool-esque sass.

It's unavoidable when you've got a leading man like the talented Mr. Reynolds, who steps into the role of Adam Reed, a wisecracking fighter pilot from the future who teams up with his younger self (newcomer Walker Scobell) to track down his missing wife (Zoe Saldana) and, as an added bonus, prevent time travel from ever being invented by the Adams' late father (Mark Ruffalo).

We've also seen the movie and can tell you it's a special kind of remedy for a pesky affliction called jaded adult cynicism (according to Levy himself, it's even got an FDA seal of approval). Does all the quantum science hold together under closer scrutiny? Of course not, but when did the concept of a time-traveling DeLorean that runs on plutonium ever feel that believable either? The Adam Project co-stars Jennifer Garner (Elektra) as Adam's grieving mother and Catherine Keener (Get Out) as the central antagonist.

As of this writing, the film holds a fresh 74 percent on Rotten Tomatoes (for comparison, Free Guy has an 80 percent rating).

Head below to see what critics are saying...

"The Adam Project is a thoughtful, witty mash-up of all the movies from my childhood. It’s Back to the Future meets The Last Starfighter with a slew of wonderful performances from a cast that clearly loves the concept as much as I do. Ryan Reynolds is on top form as Adam, while Walker Scobell matches him punch for punch with a great debut performance. The Adam Project is a love letter to the family sci-fi flicks of the ‘70s and ‘80s, packed full of Amblin-like charm." -Ryan Leston, IGN

"The Adam Project may be a movie dropped on a streaming service in 2022, but it feels straight from 1986--with much better technology supporting the backdrop. It's an adventure flick that brings back warm and fuzzy memories of past movie-going experiences, and if you weren't a child of the decade mentioned over and over again, the movie still speaks to the child inside everyone." -Matt Elfring, GameSpot

"Levy knows how to turn up the heart without getting cloying. All the actors know exactly the right beats to make this obviously incredulous premise feel possible but, most important, to let us ask questions about our own familiar relationships from a perspective that is unique to say the least. Reynolds never goes over the top, keeping it fun and funny but always humane and real. He has met his acting match in Scobell, marking a memorable film debut from a kid actor who never feels like a kid actor. They have great chemistry." -Pete Hammond, Deadline

"Like Free GuyAdam hangs a lot on Reynolds' rat-a-tat banter and a winky awareness of all the multiplex tropes it's tweaking, even as it drills down on the all-you-need-is-love message at its squishy center. Unlike Guy, it's is also purposefully positioned as a family film, with a Spielbergian sense of wonder to cut through all the pew-pew noise. That's a lot of disparate pieces to bring together tonally, and some bits just don't fit." -Leah Greenblatt, Entertainment Weekly

"Levy is a director who has found a successful lane in studio-made crowd pleasers like Date Night, Night at the Museum, and Free Guy, which also starred Reynolds. While they might not be the kind of things that are taught in film school, they do have their place as uncynical, nostalgic and rewatchable popcorn fare (even Amblin-esque, if we must) with just enough heart to make you feel like you haven’t consumed junk food." -Lindsey Bahr, Associated Press

The Adam Project is neither satisfied with such character-driven hijinks, nor patient enough to let them grow into something richer. The future is coming for these boys in a hurry, and once it arrives — on the strength of a big armada and some even bigger ideas about the mechanics of space-time — the film starts barrelling forward in an effort to speed through its plot so fast that people lose sight of its holes." -David Ehrlich, IndieWire

"At just under two hours, The Adam Project is stuffed with cheerfully indecipherable plot twists (nuclear reactors, crystals, equations) and mind scramblers (older characters manipulating their younger selves, variations of the butterfly effect). But it’s all at a competent, polished remove – complicated enough to get invested if you want, but built for passive enjoyment. The Adam Project may gesture at the grand world of time travel physics, but it’s actually quite a simple formula." -Adrian Horton, The Guardian

The Adam Project is the definition of trivial, and on the small screen it overstays its welcome by about 15 minutes, but it’s a brashly likable piece of antic high-powered fluff. Here’s my own leap into the future: As a team, Ryan Reynolds and Shawn Levy are going to make much better movies than this one, but you can feel the tastiness of their combo even in a kinetic marshmallow like The Adam Project. They’re not trying to fake fun." -Owen Gleiberman, Variety

"While the action and whizbang visual effects are pretty lightweight — and the script glosses over its own sci-fi concept with barely a wave of a not-quite-lightsaber — The Adam Project is frothy fun as Reynolds, Ruffalo and Saldana bicker genially. And this entertaining family adventure is anchored by real emotion as the time-traveling family grapples with love and loss. If your kids want some zippy sci-fi action and you need a break from superheroes, The Adam Project is worth making time for." -Richard Trenholm, CNET

"A big, dumb lug of a movie that cribs from the Bruce Willis vehicle The KidBack to the Future and too many other sci-fi titles to list — and has a protagonist so smugly self-aware that none of his feelings ring true — isn’t really engineered for emotional investment. And everything else is too pedestrian to generate excitement." -David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter

"Blissfully under two hours, The Adam Project is no modern classic. But it does benefit from an affecting finale that pays special attention to Adam’s strained relationship with his father. Reynolds may play the smart aleck, but beneath Adam’s zingers he is compensating for a profound pain, and Louis is critical in activating his son’s tender side. It’s an unexpectedly sweet note to end on. Or perhaps it’s just that after a double dose of wise cracking, some authentic feeling is a welcome respite." -Natalia Winkelman, The New York Times

The Adam Project arrives on Netflix tomorrow — Friday, March 11.