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February 2007


By Kam Williams


Distributor: Warner Bros.
Director: Michael Polish
Producers: Mark Polish, Paula Weinstein, Len Amato, and Michael Polish
Screenwriters: Mark Polish & Michael Polish
Cinematographer: M. David Mullen
Cast: Billy Bob Thornton, Virginia Madsen, Bruce Dern and Tim Blake Nelson

Rated PG for peril, mild epithets and mature themes.
Running time: 104 minutes





Would-Be Astronaut Builds Rocket in Backyard Barn in Heartwarming Modern Fable

For as long as he can remember, Charles Farmer (Billy Bob Thornton) has wanted to rocket into outer space. So, all his life, he worked hard towards that goal, earning a degree in aerospace engineering and enlisting in the Air Force to become a pilot. He had even been admitted to NASA’s astronaut training program, when a family emergency forced him to withdraw, seemingly forever dashing his hopes for experiencing spaceflight.But not one to give up so easily, Charles, back as a private citizen, chose to devote the next ten years of his life to building a rocket right in his backyard. The primary problem with this dogged pursuit of his fading dream was that he had a wife (Virginia Madsen) and three kids to support: Shepard (Max Thieriot), Sunshine (Logan Polish) and Stanley (Jasper Polish). But they and Grandpa Hal (Bruce Dern) lent their unwavering support to the project, not knowing that it was threatening to bankrupt the family in the process.

For, Charles had secretly borrowed $600,000 from a bank which is now
threatening to foreclose on his 352 acre cattle ranch. In addition, the CIA, the FAA and other federal agencies have caught wind of his cockamamie plan and are now threatening to shoot his spaceship out of the sky, if he should dare to launch it over their objections. But this is America, dadgummit, and you don’t think Charles is gonna let any bureaucrats or government agents stand in the way of his God-given, inalienable right to the pursuit of his happiness, do you?

No way, and his defiant struggle against all odds provides the emotional grounding for The Astronaut Farmer, a barely believable flight of fancy that’s fun the whole family, provided you’re capable of suspending disbelief. In order to enjoy this heartwarming tale, one must accept cartoon astrophysics and the idea that the authorities can’t figure out a way to prevent a loose cannon like Charles from following through with his threat to catapult himself into the air at a rate in excess of escape velocity.

Just be thankful this fable revolves around a role model for junior astronauts who has an intact moral compass and an indomitable spirit worth emulating. What a breath of fresh air in the wake of that NASA Space Shuttle Commander recently arrested for attempted murder after driving 1000 miles, non-stop, in a soiled adult diaper. Pee-yew.