A NASA astronaut (Thornton), forced to retire years earlier so he could save his family farm, has never given up his dream of space travel and looks to build his own rocket, despite the government's threats to stop him.
Texan Charles Farmer left the Air Force as a young man to save the family ranch when his dad died. Like most American ranchers, he owes his bank. Unlike most, he's an astrophysicist with a rocket in his barn - one he's built and wants to take into space. It's his dream. The FBI puts him under surveillance when he tries to buy rocket fuel; the FAA stalls him when he files a flight plan - it's post-9/11, after all. His wife is angry when she finds out their bank is initiating foreclosure. Charlie fears failure and decides, precipitously, to launch. Are twenty-first century American dreams just a sign of insanity? Are those who believe in dreamers only fools? Written by
When Farmer is about to launch, Shepard says: "Cleared for launch at zero hour nine a.m.," an homage to the Elton John song "Rocket Man." See more »
For his first launch, Farmer fuels the rocket with kerosene and hydrazine. Either one can be used as a rocket fuel, but both are worthless without an oxidizer. Even combined, he never would have gotten an ignition, let alone a failed launch. See more »
I saw this wonderfully charming family movie tonight at a free preview in Washington, DC.
The Polish brothers and the Warner Brothers, taking a cue from Walden Media, have hit the family movie sweet spot with this fun, engaging film. I'm giving it an 8 on the basis of pure solid family entertainment value.
(If this movie were a car it would probably be a Toyota Camry)
At the start of the screening, Billy Bob Thorton proudly (and accurately, IMHO) characterized this film as a feel-good Frank Capraesque popcorn flick - the sort of film that would have been on the "A" side of a double bill back in the days of his youth.
Billy Bob and Virginia Madsen do terrific jobs with their characters. I think the timelessly beautiful Ms. Madsen is particularly effective as Farmer's patient, loving, and somewhat exasperated wife.
(and if I were Stephen Colbert interviewing Billy Bob Thorton, I would probably ask this question - "Virginia Madsen: hot co-star, or *the hottest* co-star?").
The story and the arc of the film bring strong elements of "Field of Dreams" and "October Sky" to mind; but absent the mysticism of the former and the somewhat dysfunctional family dynamics of the latter. As a large, tasty helping of pure western Americana I don't doubt for a minute that this film will be a huge hit in Japan.
This movie pays light homage to films like "The Right Stuff" and "Apollo 13." Space fanatics, rocket scientists, and other members of the pocket-protector crowd might experience a few "oh please, you've got to be kidding" moments, but because of its charm, likable characters, and strong acting, this movie requires a lot less disbelief suspension than a film like, oh I don't know, let's say "Armageddon," for example.
Speaking of baby-boomer asteroid wranglers, I was also pleasantly surprised to see Bruce Willis in a small, but key supporting role. I think it's really great when skilled, immensely watchable actors lend their talents to bright young film makers. At the Q&A after the film it was revealed that Bruce took the role as a favor to the Polish brothers and that he essentially worked for free. It was nice of him to do that.
All of the other members of the well-casted supporting ensemble (including some young members of the Polish tribe) delivered solid performances as well.
I won't give you a synopsis of the film here (others are better than me at that sort of thing); but I will tell you that I plan to take my wife and 4, 7, and 12 year old kids to see this film for the pure joy of watching a fun, happy, and slightly quirky movie together as a family.
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