ASTRONAUT

ASTRONAUT

(director/writer: Shelagh McLeod; cinematographer: Scott McClellan; editor: Tiffany Beaudin; music: Virginia Kilbertus; cast: Richard Dreyfuss (Angus), Lyriq Bent (Jim), Krista Bridges (Molly), Graham Greene (Len), Colm Feore (Marcus), Richie Lawrence (Barney), Art Hindle (Joe), Karen LeBlanc (Elisa), Mimi Kuzyk (Liz), Judy Marshak (Nurse Judy); Runtime: 97; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Sean Buckley, Jessica Adams; Quiver Distribution; 2019-Canada)

“The narrative is slight and the characters are thinly drawn.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Brit TV actress-turned-filmmaker Shelagh McLeod, in her debut, is the director-writer of this cliché-filled and sentimental space film. It’s about a lonely elderly widower’s dream coming through of going into space. Though the film has nothing to do with that event, it’s been coincidentally released around the fiftieth anniversary of Apollo 11.

The financially struggling 79-year-old Angus (Richard Dreyfuss), a retired civil engineer, who made a poor investment in a donkey farm to please his former mentally ill wife, leaves the home of his daughter Molly (Krista Bridges) and her family and because of frequent fainting spells is reluctantly placed in the Sundown Valley retirement home. Also his son-in-law Jim (Lyriq Bent), who idolizes him, has lost his bank job by doing some shady things.

While gramps is frolicking around at the nursing home with his space fan grandson Barney (Richie Lawrence), he hears about a national TV lottery sponsored by the billionaire entrepreneur Marcus (Colm Feore). He is running a contest whereby the qualified winner between the ages of 18-65, will be taken on the Ventura, in the first civilian shuttle in space.

Angus lies about his age and covers up his poor health chart (he has a weak heart), and becomes a finalist in the contest. This calls for a site visit. When Angus has concerns about the structural integrity of the space craft and believes there might be a potentially serious problem with the runway, the sponsor refuses to delay the launch to investigate. Despite risking his dream opportunity to go on the voyage, Angus goes public with his concerns.

The narrative is slight and the characters are thinly drawn, and the film is more about aging and family issues than space travel. But Dreyfuss gives it his best to overcome some of the shortcomings (like only Dreyfuss notices the structural fault, while no expert engineer actually working on the project does) and this harmless fable has a fair amount of charm to make the undemanding film at least watchable.

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REVIEWED ON 8/4/2019       GRADE: C+  
https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/

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