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Look above, a time warp has opened up in the sky! Something has fallen out of it. What is it? Why, it’s a rejected script from Tom Cruise’s desk from 2012. Say boys, wouldn’t this make for a good movie?

This is what I imagine the folk at Netflix must have said before greenlighting The Adam Project. The movie is now on the streaming platform for all to watch, but I warn you, do so with caution.

Before we begin, some background: The Adam Project is the latest “sci-fi” film from Netflix. It follows the story of 12-year-old Adam Reed (Braxton Bjerken), a smart-mouthed trouble-maker who is still grieving the loss of his father, played by Mark Ruffalo. His life takes an interesting turn when Ryan Reynolds, who claims to be Adam from the future, breaks into his house. What follows is a time-splitting adventure I recommend you do not watch.

The story feels very played out, although I can’t blame that all on the movie; it’s just hard to make myself interested in a time travel story after filmmakers have taken us through every possible permutation over the years.

But hey, there’s more to the movie than time travel. For the most part, it’s a family drama. The younger Adam is still getting over the loss of his father, and older Adam is trying to get over his own self-loathing.

I like the self-hatred angle. Who amongst us does not, on occasion, stare into the mirror and see the enemy? If the script actually embraced it, the movie might have some genuine emotional weight.

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But it doesn’t. Rather, it seems to be a way for the movie to excuse the off-putting meanness and lame attempts at humor from the older Adam. It’s a free pass for Ryan Reyolds to continue to do his Deadpool shtick in front of a child.

Ryan Reynolds stars as a Ryan Reynolds type in The Adam Project

Yes, the jokes are bad. Nearly all of them rely on Ryan Reyolds and Braxton Bjerken trying to out one-liner each other. Bjerken’s quips are often pretty lame, but Reyolds’s are far worse, because half of them are just him saying something vicious and gross to a kid. This movie doesn’t inspire the suspension of disbelief needed for me to see these people as characters, a man talking to his past self. I just see Reynolds being a scumbag to a kid, and it’s allowed because that’s just the persona he’s made for himself, the charming trouble-maker. Not in this film. In The Adam Project, it’s obnoxious and cringe-inducing. Does the movie expect me to like Reynolds with him acting like that, just because he snuggles next to a fluffy dog and smiles? If I was the younger Adam, I would have sicced the dog on him.

That might be harsh. After all, Ryan and I go way back. Remember the salad days, Ryan? When the good-looking guy with a dirty mouth made worthwhile experiences of Van Wilder and Waiting?  Those were the innocent times. I have grown since those times, Ryan. Have you?

It’s not entirely Ryan Reynolds’ fault. What could he do given what he had to work with? The script has to take most of the blame. I understand the value of popcorn movies, but the writing of the main character’s emotional journey is so lazy. Reynolds’ character acts horrible all movie long, and the writers give him these savior moments when he gives the kid his inhaler so he doesn’t die or scares off his bullies. Great, now I can forgive him for threatening to punch him. Those moments make it obvious from the start where the movie is going: Old Adam hates himself, these lame redemption bits show he isn’t so bad, and we lead up to an inevitable reconciliation. A very predictable story, but the jokes are supposed to save it, or at least distract you from it. They fail, and here we are.

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Oof, and the quality of the dialog. If I hear, “I’ve always wanted to try this” or “I’ve always wanted to do that” in another film, I will begin to wonder if anyone in Hollywood watches movies. This is dialog that might show up in a first draft, and even then the writer should be a bit ashamed of using it as a placeholder. Any lame joke or quip you can think of requires more effort than, “I’ve always wanted to do that.”

Enough about Ryan and the script. What about Bjerken? Well, I don’t like his character all that much, because, again, the jokes and quips. Being directed to act like a child Ryan Reynolds definitely doesn’t do the character any favors, but beneath it all there is a good child actor. The emotional scene at the top of the third act is a good example of what he can do when not held back by lames jokes.

A few more things before we wrap up. I mean this as a compliment to Star Trek: Discovery: this movie’s computer graphics look like an episode of Star Trek: Discovery. The score insisted on itself. Mark Ruffalo and Catherine Keener do an okay job.

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That’s all I have to say about that. Now quickly everyone, into the decontamination room. We know not yet the ramifications of long term exposure, so it is important we take precautions. Of course, the best way to avoid risk is to avoid exposure at all. Let us hurry away to safer grounds on Netflix. I hear very good things about Inventing Anna.

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Grade: D-

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