Monday, December 1, 2008

A Frank Review of "The Astronaut Farmer" (2006)

The Short Version? Failed astronaut turned farmer builds rocket, but ticks off government.
What Is It? Family film
Who's In It? Billy Bob Thornton, Virginia Madsen, Bruce Dern, Tim Blake Nelson, J.K. Simmons
Should I See It? No.

I love Billy Bob Thornton as a screenwriter, and often like him as an actor, but I wish he did more of one than the other. The man is not the most discerning when it comes to performing other folks' scripts, y'see. For instance, this movie, while good-natured, is just all kinds of dumb. It seems to chase the Disney crowd, but Billy Bob's character is too much of a flake and questionable role model to sit well with that lot. He plunges his family deep in debt, yanks his kids out of school, runs afoul of Homeland Security, and even turns down a free ride on a modern rocket in pursuit of a really dangerous dream. Don't do this at home. The movie also seems to push for science education and a love of of conventional space travel, but any fans of that sort of thing are going to bust a gut at the gross inaccuracies portrayed.

Billy Bob himself is one-note. Virginia Madsen is much better, completely selling an unlikely character. She deserves better. Tim Blake Nelson serves well in a thankless role. Bruce Dern seems befuddled, hopefully on purpose, and appears a few times as a deus ex machina. J.K. Simmons puts on his J. Jonah Jameson cap. Kiersten Warren is 41, and must bathe in the blood of virgins, along with the nearly 50 Madsen. There are also some celebrity cameos, including Billy Bob's co-star from that other astronaut movie he was in, which was somehow more plausible than this. Seriously.

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