Netflixable? Reynolds and Garner, Ruffalo and Keener time-travel and wrestle over “The Adam Project”

For his latest feat, Mr. Canadian Trade-Balancer Ryan Reynolds travels through time to trade barbs with his 12-year-old self, further extends the warranty for action comedy hack Shawn “Night at the Museum” Levy and makes Mark Ruffalo funny.

Pulling those off for “The Adam Project,” a noisy/cutesy and kid-friendly mashup of a dozen more original movies, is no mean feat. But for a picture that’s no big deal and no credit to the genre, it passes the time pleasantly enough, largely thanks to its intensely likeable, quick-quipping star.

You could say the same for the last Levy-Reynolds team-up, “Free Guy,” it’s worth noting. Levy knows when to throw a few effects at you, and when to let his star and those paired up with that star take over and make with the funny business.

Reynolds has the title role, and when we meet Adam, he’s getting shot at and shot up as he steals a time jet. It’s 2050 and our hero has business in the past. That business is back in 2022, and it’s where he runs into his younger self.

Walker Scobell has the tricky job of being wired and witty Ryan Reynolds-as-Adam at 12, and he’s passably quick on the uptake. The short-for-his-age Adam’s suspended from school for fighting (getting beat up) again, something his older self understands.

“You have a very punchable face.”

The kid isn’t as quick as his/their dog to figure out who this stranger who’s busted into his house is. But he is fast on the flippant threats, about facing years of therapy telling a shrink “where the bad man touched me.”

Something happened in the past that’s messed up the future. There’s an oligarch (Catherine Keener) who has all this power. Older and younger Adam have to fight off the villains, circumvent Mom (Jennifer Garner) and find their way back to Dad (Ruffalo). Otherwise, the future?

“You’ve seen ‘Terminator?’ That’s 2050 on a GOOD day.”

“Adam” is built on a “Guardians of the Galaxy” template, from the parent-child sentiment to the derivative action beats and gadgets — “Is that a light saber?” “No, it’s a (Older Adam turns it on)…” “It’s a light saber.” There’s joke after joke about other movies in the genre, slavish devotion to classic rock tunes on the soundtrack and of course Zoe Saldana, here cast as adult Adam’s action-heroine wife.

Saldana is almost criminally under-used here, but she has a moment or two, mostly emotional grace notes that turn up throughout the picture amidst the levity and mayhem.

The way their pet Labrador recognizes Adult Adam, and the looks he has trying to figure out how this scent-recognition thing is shared is one such moment. Adult Adam reassuring grieving Mom that her little boy loves her is another. Kids that age?

“It’s like living with a urinal cake that yells at you.”

Lots of funny lines land, as does a sight gag or two. Where can I get that hilarious “Face/Off” joke T-shirt that professor-dad (Ruffalo) calls attention to in his college lecture?

Everything here is something we’ve seen before — chases, “light saber” fights, the big Bond-sized set-piece finale. It gets fairly tedious fairly early on.

But if you love Reynolds, you’re here to hear him crack wise, smirk and get complimented on how “ripped” he is. Because he won’t be Canuck Eye Candy forever. And who knows how funny he’ll be in his fast-approaching Betty White/victory lap dotage?

Rating: PG-13 for violence/action, language and suggestive references.

Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Walker Scobell, Zoe Saldana, Catherine Keener, Alex Mallari Jr. and Mark Ruffalo.

Credits: Directed by Shawn Levy, scripted by Jonathan Tropper, T.S. Nowlin and Jennifer Flackett. A Netflix release.

Running time: 1:46

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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