by Wes Abney
It's the rare film that can make you love and hate it at the same time, but Astronaut Farmer is so ambiguously captivating that it begs to be watched.
But don't worry, it's worth your $9.50.
Like most faux-inspirational Hollywood films, Astronaut Farmer has a lot of assumed absurditity. Nobody can launch a rocket out of a barn. Nobody can build a rocket capabile of space travel out of junkyard parts.
But the movie isn't about space travel. It's about realizing a dream, and Billy Bob Thornton does it with style.
If I were to attempt to explain this feature as a whole, I would be wasting my time. The movie doesn't give you every last plot detail. But beyond the finer points, the message is clear. Everyone has dreams, but only a few turn them into reality.
Everybody thinks Charles Farmer (Thornton) is crazy for building a rocket. He had a dream to go to the moon, and everyone who knew tossed it out the window. After losing on a chance to go to space as NASA-trained aerospace engineer, people thought Farmer was trying to take off from the planet for good. But nobody thought he could actually launch a homemade rocket into space.
Beyond a star-filled cast and a family oriented message, Astronaut Farmer brings a lot to the table. Fans of family dramas, Thornton's acting, or space genre films will enjoy this movie. Filmgoers searching for a serious and detail oriented film will likely be disappointed. Either way, it's worth checking out. Astronaut Farmer premiers in theaters on Feb. 23.
by Daniel Berman
All the open vistas in the world cannot make me ignore the simplest truth about Astronaut Farmer: it stars Billy Bob Thornton as an astronaut.
The film begins with a panoramic view of the Texas plains where we meet our alleged hero and aeronautical fiend Charles Farmer (Thornton) galloping on horseback into the sunset. The Farmer family home sits adjacent to the main focal point of the film -- a cavernous red barn (complete with authentic silo attachment!) that houses a partially built rocket.
The movie never states how Farmer, a former NASA trainee that completed just half the required training program, had the means and the ambition to build most of a working space vehicle. That plot hole aside, the movie pretty much goes according to plan: man loves space, man wants to go to space, etc. This is no different than Apollo 13, minus all the other crew members, and starring Billy Bob Thornton.
Astronaut Farmer was not all bad. Thornton, while thoroughly unbelievable as an astronaut, did a good job of keeping his family motivated even in the rougher times. Baby-faced actor Max Thieriot plays Farmer's son Shephard with a lot of emotion and we get to see him revealed as a capable young actor that defies the normal teenager convention of brattiness.
Overall the film was a good attempt at an inspirational tale of one man battling everything from his own family, to his own government, to himself. As we see Thornton ignore every sign telling him to turn back, to give up on the rocket project, we cannot help but think we can do the same.