The Astronaut Farmer (1/10)
by Tony Medley
It strains credulity to think
that anyone would make a movie that strains credulity like this one. If
it isn’t the dumbest movie ever made, it’s close. It’s no surprise that
it’s a Billy Bob Thornton vehicle because he specializes in dumb movies
(“Bad Santa” 2003, “Love, Actually” 2003, “The Alamo” 2004 and on and
on). This one is his pièce d’ résistance.
We are to believe that a
rancher, Charles Farmer (Thornton) can build a rocket all by himself to
put him in orbit. But that’s just the start. This film has so many
idiotic premises that one becomes overwhelmed. Consider:
- Charles has borrowed $600,000 from the
bank, mortgaging his 320-acre cattle ranch in the process. So we are
to believe that one can build a rocket that can hurtle a satellite
into earth orbit for $600,000. This guy should be the head of NASA!
- Later in the film Charles’ wife, Audrey
(Virginia Madsen) comes into a $300,000 inheritance. With this she
pays off the bank (to which she owed $600,000) and has enough left
over for Charles to build yet another rocket. Talk about the miracle
of the loaves and the fishes!
- Charles and Audrey have three children and
live on a 320 acre cattle ranch. But Charles has no visible job or
means of support and Audrey works as a waitress in a diner. These
people clearly should be co-Secretaries of the Treasury.
- When the rocket takes off the barn is left
pretty much unscathed. Let’s see, this thing is full of highly
flammable rocket fuel that does, in fact, ignite. But it does
absolutely no damage to the barn. Remarkable!
- Audrey is the most understanding wife in
the history of the planet, but also the most irresponsible. She is an
enabler, supporting her husband’s madness to the detriment of her
Oh, there are more, but why
bother? Director-writer-producer (the last two with his brother, Mark)
Michael Polish apparently intends this as some sort of allegory for
people following their childhood dreams, because Charles keeps repeating
that he wanted to be an astronaut as a child and preaches this
throughout the movie. But pursuing a childhood dream can only be
reasonable if the dream is possible. A young boy who wants to play major
league baseball or a young girl who wants to become another Meryl Streep
yearns for something that is possible, no matter how improbable. For
someone to devote his life to something clearly impossible, like
building a rocket in his barn that will soar him into earth orbit all by
himself, is madness.
The film had a spot where it
could have ended and had a good moral, one that would have enforced the
idea that a dream must be possible in order to be something to pursue.
Unfortunately, the Polishes continued after this good ending point by
adding an ending that rewards a mad pursuit of an impossible goal.
There is nothing entertaining
about this film. In addition to being ridiculous, it is slow and boring.
February 16, 2007