Undertake The Adam Project, Binge MasterChef Junior, and Make Vacation Friends

A man looks bewildered in The Adam Project

Welcome back to Larks & Recommendations, our weekly feature wherein you’ll find various writers on our staff recommending various things for you to consume, from TV shows to films, books, podcasts, music, and whatever else we think is worth your time. This week, Hawk finds The Adam Project to be surprisingly poignant, Joel cleanses his palate with MasterChef Junior, and Paul enjoys a second viewing of Vacation Friends.

Film Recommendation: The Adam Project

Hawk Ripjaw: The Adam Project is the second in the apparent Shawn Levy/Ryan Reynolds trilogy (the third movie being Deadpool 3), and this Netflix picture really nails it. With distinct shades of 80s/90s Amblin flair, The Adam Project finds Adam (Reynolds) traveling back in time from 2050 to 2022 and enlisting his 12-year-old self (Walker Scobell), to rush to 2018 and prevent a dystopian future. Hot on their heels is Maya Sorian (Catherine Keener), who has monopolized time travel in the future. It’s good, old-fashioned time shenanigans sci-fi action.

But boy, I was not prepared for how hard it hits in its approach to grief. I decided to check it out since I’d kept hearing good things and expected to have a good time, and the movie is indeed a lot of fun; I did not, however, expect to be a f*cking mess by the end…and about halfway through…and towards the end of the first act. This movie gets pretty raw: Adam’s father died somewhere around 2019/2020, and Young Adam is not coping with it well—with those repercussions affecting Big Adam for the next 30 years.

Both Adams are bitter, cynical pricks, with the diminuitive Young Adam consistently suspended for verbally retaliating against bullies and getting his ass kicked, as well as lashing out against his mother as he throws up as many emotional shields as he can. Big Adam watches how his younger self grapples with his pain and sees how it affects his mother, who tries to shield her own grief from her son. Young Adam, after reuniting with his father in 2018, has to contend with the fact that he cannot warn his father about his eventual death and as such cannot bring him back. It’s surprisingly heavy stuff in a movie that could have just been a time travel romp.

I lost my father a couple of years ago, and it messed me up. As my grief made me close up, I’ve lost friendships, other relationships have been irrevocably changed, and I constantly think about the experiences I could have had with him, such as his love for football that I didn’t share, among other things. The Adam Project explores what it could be like to interact with a lost loved one a final time, change what you may or may not have said, or to reconcile with those you might not have been so kind to in the grieving process.

Ryan Reynolds and Walker Scobell are an incredible onscreen duo, with the latter effortlessly keeping in lockstep with Reynolds and emulating his older counterpart’s sarcastic, quippy personality to perfection. When it comes time to do so, both deliver excellent dramatic performances that are tantamount to the emotion of the scene in question.

Elsewhere, the movie delivers snappy, exhilarating and inventively staged action sequences that are a ton of fun while hearkening back to the sci-fi action fare you’d find on a Blockbuster Video shelf. This really feels like something that would have had Spielberg’s fingerprints all over it back in the day, which gives it a warm, comfortable sense of nostalgia. Ryan Reynolds is at the top of his game, hilarious and devastatingly emotional by turns when the scene calls for it, with Scobell keeping up the pace without missing a beat.

Safe to say, The Adam Project reopened some wounds I seriously wasn’t expecting it to, but it felt healthy in the sense that I could sort of re-approach my grieving process—which really can’t be ignored, as I was trying to. But wrapped around that is an exciting, nostalgic, and very funny sci-fi adventure that satisfies on all levels.

TV Recommendation: MasterChef Junior

Joel Kananen: For many years, MasterChef Junior has been my most comforting of comfort shows. After viewing Alejandro Jodorowsky’s The Holy Mountain for the first time, there was only one place that I could turn to in search of grounded reality: Masterchef Junior. Food-based competitions are universally beloved because of their simplicity of concept, watchability, and ease of connection. This is only amplified with the un-scriptable actions and reactions that come from the brilliant young chefs.

The passion and skill of these 8 to 12-year old is always incredible, as is the wisdom that spouts from the mouth of babes. The elimination of the young chefs also hits harder than ever, as nothing is as devastating as seeing a child’s dream die just a little bit on network television. Just the sad piano keys that tinkle in the back for every elimination is tear-inducing, not to mention the actual hugs and tears that flow after each young cook is sent home. Even for those eliminated, I feel that the show is an inspiration and showcase of the most underrated sources of greatness: the power of youth.

Another, somewhat underrated aspect of a great binge show is if you can eat while watching. Some good shows to eat to include Bob’s Burgers, Twin Peaks and MasterChef Junior. Shows to avoid while eating include Hannibal (unless you a freak), and Twin Peaks: The Return. As an avid viewer of Gordon Ramsey programming, it is nice to see the soft side of the famously cantankerous chef, and I can’t lie, watching him wear ridiculous costumes and get Nickelodeon level slimed by various foods is just good physical comedy. There are eight seasons of MasterChef Junior available on Hulu, a fact that tethers me to the world with something I can rely on for emotional support. The current season is added to streaming weekly every Friday. Go Starla.

Film Recommendation: Vacation Friends

Paul Keelan: I watched Vacation Friends twice in less than a year—a reality that perhaps speaks more to the sad state of contemporary comedies than anything. That said, this middling comedy is doubtless entertaining enough for a second round of chuckles. And each time I queued it up on Hulu, I was thoroughly amused. John Cena owns the lovable doofus archetype right now. As the character Ron, he’s radiantly absurd and on the top of his game—oozing loads of charisma as he mixes alpha-male antics with an underlying sweetness. Cena’s ability to find the empathic soft spots of testosterone-laden characters is uncanny.

At its ridiculous center, Vacation Friends is a buddy/couple comedy. The setup is simple and yet hard to explain without giving away any spoilers. But the essential framework is quite familiar: The stability of an uptight yet even-keeled couple, Marcus (Lil Rel Howery) and Emily (Yvonne Orji), becomes forever upended after befriending their outlandish alter egos Ron (Cena) and Kyla (Meredith Wagner). All the conventional elements of a 2021 mainstream summer comedy are there. The script is unfortunately quite milquetoast. To be honest, I’m not sure if I appreciated the post-racial decision to gloss over all race-based tensions even as they were lurking beneath the surface or not. But Vacation Friends at least knows what it doesn’t want to be—a subversive or clever socio-political commentary.

Filled with drugs, psychedelic digressions, fraternal bonding, public humiliation, crude gags, and cringe one-liners (e.g, Cena nonchalantly quipping how sailing gets him “half-mast” or talking about jerking-off stalagmites), Vacation Friends is happy to remind us that humor is the true social leveler. And although this is nothing special in the subgenre of rowdy adult comedies, the puppy dog energy and goofy earnestness of the leads somehow feels wildly refreshing. Sometimes it is downright cathartic to giggle at the sight of oversized screw-ups having fun, getting in trouble, and strengthening friendships.

Have a recommendation for us? Let us know in the comments!

Written by TV Obsessive

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *