(director: Christopher Bauer; screenwriter: Max Taxe; cinematographer: Brendan Uegama; editor: Harry Jierjian; music: David Boman; cast: Mason Gooding (Calvin), Lana Condor (Sophie), Cole Sprouse (Walt), Christine Adams (Jan, Calvin’s mom), Emily Rudd (Ginny), Lukas Gage (Dalton), Riggins), Zach Braf (Leon Kovi), Michelle Buteau (Captain Tartar), Cameron Esposito (Tabby), Sunita Deshpande (Celeste), Peter Woodward (Gary-voice); Runtime: 104; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers; Greg Berlanti, Jill McElroy, Jenna Sarkin, Sarah Schechter: HBO MAX; 2022)

“I’m a bit puzzled by the title Moonshot since it’s all about going to Mars.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

An inoffensive and forgettable YA romance and futuristic sci-fi film, sweetly but ineffectively directed by Christopher Bauer (“Wyrm”) and awkwardly written in a cutesy manner for the targeted Gen-Z audience by Max Taxe.

The laid-back college student Walt (Cole Sprouse) is a barista in a coffee place In 2049
who yearns to go to Mars, as the world is slowly relocating there.

Walt has filed some 38 application to go to Mars but has been rejected every single time by the arrogant billionaire private citizen sponsoring the relocation program.

At a party, Walt meets the attractive and smart Ginny (Emily Rudd) and discovers she’s going to Mars the next day. They leave the party promising to keep in touch via texting. After a month of exchanging emails, no more messages appear. Since he’s rejected again to go on a Mars mission, his only way of getting there is to purchase a ticket for a million bucks–which is money he doesn’t have.

At his workplace cafe, Walt meets the patron Sophie (Lana Condo), a science whiz who is in tears because her boyfriend Calvin (Mason Gooding) will not return for a few years because he re-upped his tour of duty and she’s upset because she planned on marrying him. Walt previously met her at a party.

Walt’s advice to Sophie is to go to Mars and hook-up with Calvin. During their talk, he finds out she’s rich and is able to buy the expensive ticket (I guess she’s brilliant but couldn’t figure out all she had to do was a buy a shuttle ticket and she could be with her man!).

That night Ginny sends a video message to Walt that the messages stopped because a cat got trapped in one of the spaceship’s air ducts. With that, the light bulb turns on in his head, and on the day of Sophie’s flight to Mars he sneaks on the plane (don’t ask how!) and travels with Sophie to Mars on their flight of 35 days. During this time they make a love connection, as they share an appetite for adventure and have an attraction for each other. But Sophie gets a message from Calvin saying that he is waiting for her. She now tells the disappointed Walt she can’t help him anymore. He tells her Calvin would never do the same thing for her that she’s doing for him. But Sophie can’t hear him. It results in the police arresting Walt. When he meets Ginny in Mars, she tells him his true love was Mars and not her, as they part for good.

Walt is then taken to meet Leon Kovi (Zach Braf), viewed as an Elon Musk type, the sponsor of the Mars relocation of Earth program. He reveals to Walt that he was aware of his presence on the spaceship from the beginning, and he has released a video of his antics, where he was trying to hide from the world, and that has gone viral. Leon wants to be able to use Walt’s face as a PR promotion on social media in exchange for letting him live in Mars. Walt immediately agrees to that (what’s so attractive about Mars is never pointed out).

spoiler alert in the next paragraph.

Walt returns to Earth realizing there’s nothing special about Mars. Meanwhile Sophie has a friendly chat with Calvin’s accommodating mom Jan (Christine Adams) and realizes she would rather live on Earth with Walt–the one who loves her more.

I’ve seen worse YA rom/com adventure sci-fi films. But I’m a bit puzzled by the title Moonshot since it’s all about going to Mars and has nothing to do with the moon.

REVIEWED ON 5/12/2022  GRADE: C +