The Astronaut Farmer

Cover Art/Menu: 4/10
I think I’m about out of steam in the cover/menu review department. I feel like I say how boring they are over and over and over. So, surprise, this one is no different. It’s a charming story with that sweet family squishiness, so it’s got a cover to match. The menu is seriously lacking in personality. It’s just a still image from the movie with the navigation at the bottom, nothing special. All in all, the package for Astronaut Farmer is pretty typically blah.

Features: 5/10

  • How To Build A Rocket The Making Of The Astronaut Farmer – This is a production documentary that covers the making of the film, but focuses mostly on the director/writer teem of the Polish brothers. They get a lot of love from the cast as they all talk about how wonderful they are and how clever and what good film makers they are. It’s well made and it’s fairly substantial, which makes it worth the time to watch it.
  • A Conversation With NASA Astronaut David Scott – A real live astronaut! He makes a point of saying this is a fictional story, so he doesn’t really want to promote the idea that any dude out on a ranch could build and launch their own rocket…darn!
  • Bloopers & Outtakes – Famous people making mistakes and props falling over, shocking 🙂

The Movie: 7/10
Follow your dreams. There, you have now received the message of The Astronaut Farmer. That being said, you can now watch the movie for what it is, a nice family drama with some heavy hitting talent and many heartwarming (I know it’s a bad word,but it’s accurate in this case) moments.

I like sentimental movies sometimes. It cleanses the tear ducts and cuts through the action flicks and cynical futuristic fantasies that we get a steady stream of these days. I like them all, but once in a while I get in the mood for stories about ordinary people doing extraordinary things, but not with super powers or time traveling machines, just raw determination, and that mysterious supply of cash they all seem to have.

We do get the classic formula of the farmer who is struggling financially and will lose the ranch if he doesn’t get his act together. That’s a given. The wife and kids are supportive of this particular farmer, who’s name happens to be Charles Farmer, handy. It’s a love fest with perfectly cute children who are clever and funny and well behaved. The mother/wife is beautiful and is a stereotypical waitress at the local rural cafe. It’s a nice tidy package, not a lot of rough edges and no deep dark mysteries hidden behind it all. What we see is what we get, a family with a rocket ship in the barn.

Why is there a rocket ship in the barn? Good question. Charles Farmer wanted to be an astronaut, but something went wrong a while back and now he’s building his own rocket out in that barn of his. It’s not a secret. Everyone in town knows about it. He’s almost finished, just needs the fuel and then it will be time to launch. That’s where the problem comes in. Well, that is if you consider spending the families food and mortgage money on a rocket in your barn not a problem. But that aside, the bigger complications hit home when he tries to buy enough fuel to spark his big rig for the skies…and that’s when the FBI come to the farm.

There are the standard things like goofy agents, media frenzy, awkward hearings with grandstanding and emotional speaches, sad moments, and the inevitable bit where we are not sure whether he will make it off the ground or not. That’s the tension part of the story kids.

Mingled in with all this rocket talk are genuine moments with Charlie’s family, his two daughters and teenage son, his wife and father-in-law. Thornton does what he does best and plays it all down with a sense of good-old-boyness and a certain irreverance that he has become so good at over the years.

Ok, I talked about Thornton, got that out of the way. The star of this movie for me is Virgina Madsen. She’s always amazing and in this she is captivating in a way I have never seen before. She’s strong but subtle, and really feels like a devoted wife who is willing to follow her questionably sane husband through whatever life has to throw at them.
I couldn’t wait for her to come back to the screen scene after scene. She deserves some kind of nod for her role for sure, but it’s been over a year since the movie came out so it may be too late, unfortunately.

The Astronaut Farmer is a good story told well. It looks wonderful with sweeping shots of a gorgeous rural backdrop. It has certain qualities that might seem sappy on the surface, but so what, we all need a bit of encouragement to follow our dreams now and then or else our day jobs become quite boring and oh-so underwhelming.

Value: 5/10
I think unless you have a very sentimental family to watch this movie with over and over it’s best suited for a rental. It’s a fun and emotional little flick with a lot of umph! It’s just not one I need to own for future viewing.

Overall Score 7/10