The Movie Guru: ‘The Adam Project’ and ‘Talking Red’ both a delight
The Movie Guru
Both films get three and a half stars
The Adam Project (Netflix)
Remember the family-friendly sci-fi movies from the 1980s, where cool concepts were built around a strong emotional core? Remember when movies were actually based on original ideas, not just endless adaptations?
“The Adam Project,” released on Netflix on Friday, is a glorious return to both categories. The movie, which features Ryan Reynolds as a time-traveling pilot who confronts his past while trying to save the world, manages to be both exciting and deeply emotional all at once. There’s great humor, a well-placed handful of wonderfully executed action scenes, and so much about love, family and healing that you might choke up a little.
I don’t want to tell you too much more about the plot, because watching it unfold is even better when you don’t have spoilers. I will say that it’s built around the surpringly delightful team-up of Reynolds and Walker Scobell, with Scobell easy holding his own against Reynolds. Some of the best scenes in the movie come from nothing more than the two of them talking, with all of their scenes managing a great balance of humor and surprising emotional depth. Though their roles are smaller, Zoe Saldana and Mark Ruffalo are wonderful every moment they’re onscreen.
Taken all together, it’s a time-traveling adventure you won’t want to forget.
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Turning Red (Disney+)
It’s okay to love the messy, wild part inside of you.
That’s the message of Pixar’s “Turning Red,” the sweet, silly and warm-hearted new movie premiering on Disney+ this Friday. It’s a wonderfully engaging coming- bof-age story that deftly captures both a specific cultural experience and feelings so universal we can all recognize them. Even better, it all happens thanks to a wonderfully animated, delightfully silly giant red panda.
The movie focuses on Mei, a 13-year-old Chinese-Canadian girl who’s a devoted daughter at home and boy-obsessed at school. When her mom finds pictures she’s drawn of her crush, the resulting parental meltdown leads to deep social embarrassment and waking up as a giant red panda. When she finds out that strong emotions are the cause, Mei has to decide what she really wants out of life.
Though the red panda is most obviously a metaphor for puberty, it’s also a fantastic metaphor for all the messy, complicated parts of ourselves we often try to hide. The movie portrays both the good and bad parts, the complicated road to acceptance, and that it’s okay to handle things differently. It’s a beautifully well-rounded picture, portrayed in such a fun, warm-hearted way that you probably won’t even notice how many important things it’s saying.
You might even be distracted by how gorgeous it is visually. Though “Turning Red” is 3D, it borrows a lot of sensibility from 2D animation to create a distinct style that’s so refreshing to watch. It’s the best of both worlds, combining incredible detail with the elastic, goofy freedom of anime. It’s an extension of the movie’s main themes, honoring the past while continuing to move into the future.
And if you can do it with an adorable red panda, even better.
Jenniffer Wardell is an award-winning movie critic and member of the Denver Film Critics Society. Find her on Twitter at @wardellwriter or drop her a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.