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‘The Adam Project’ Shows Off a New Side Of Ryan Reynolds

‘The Adam Project’ Shows Off a New Side Of Ryan Reynolds

In my conversation with Shawn Levy, the director of Netflix’s sci-fi adventure The Adam Project, he discussed why he wanted Reynolds for the role of a time traveling adventurer who has to team up with his childhood self to save the world and such. Levy explained that “Ryan is deft and nimble with tone in a way that a lot of actors aren’t.”

“It’s not the Ryan Reynolds we expect,” he continued. “It’s not the Ryan Reynolds we see in other movies. It’s authentic and raw in a way that Ryan doesn’t always allow of himself on screen.”

This might sound like the usual PR puff any filmmaker talking about his leading man would offer in an interview, except for two key things.

For one thing, having seen the movie, it’s true. The Adam Project does showcase a different Ryan Reynolds. For another thing, we all know exactly what Levy’s talking about here. Rarely has one actor been so defined by one certain type of role. The man has a brand, and nobody is asking him to mix it up. From Red Notice to the Deadpool movies, Reynolds has slid by on mischievous charm for well over a decade. It’s a good schtick, and there’s no need to fix what ain’t broke. No need except the drive for something more.

And in The Adam Project, we do get something more. It’s still recognizably Ryan Reynolds, but he’s plumbing new depths, not just in terms of sincerity, but vulnerability. A cracking good cast gives Reynolds the freedom to turn himself down a few notches, and find a more resonant vibration at this volume. Zoe Saldana plays Reynolds’ partner (both tactical and romantic). Mark Ruffalo and Jennifer Garner (together again after 13 Going on 30) play Young Adam’s parents, and this provides Adult Adam with lots of chances to interact with his parents as peers, a la Back to the Future. But where that movie structured Marty and Lorraine’s past interactions like a (creepy, let’s be honest) romantic romp, Levy finds poignancy here. Reynolds is disarmed, melancholy and even humbled. It’s great.

Obviously, Reynolds gets the most time to explore this new side of himself during interactions with his younger self, played by Walker Scobell — one of the better child castings in some time. You can tell Reynolds is deliberately dialing himself down to give space to his young co-star, and the results really work. Scobell proves more than capable of keeping up with Reynolds’ wry energy — something that has stymied far more experienced actors — but also seems to draw something unique out of his older co-star.

As a movie, The Adam Project is a fun, breezy bit of sci-fi nostalgia that offers an all-too-rare bit of non-franchise related excitement while still hewing close to the blueprint provided by past blockbusters like E.T. The Extraterrestrial and Flight of the Navigator.  It’s not exactly reinventing anything, but it’s fun and original — two things not as common in the contemporary film landscape as they should be. But maybe most importantly, The Adam Project showcases new possibilities for one of our biggest movie stars, and highlights a way forward for what could remain a career well worth paying attention to for years to come.

You can hear more of our conversation with Levy on the latest episode of the RELEVANT Podcast.

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