I won't summarize the plot, others have already done that already, but I will make a few points and expose a few of the more obvious flaws.
I was hoping that Race To Space (2001) would be as good as The Dish (2000), which is also based on a true story of the space race (check it out if you can!). I was hoping that this film would dramatize the meaty subject of ex-Nazis working in the America's rocket program. Something that has had virtually no attention in film. Unfortunately it didn't.
Children and animals and rockets? No, it doesnt work. The mindset that brings together the first two for quick buck doesnt understand the latter. What happened to the live action kids movies? All they seem to know how to make is endless kids and animals films about animals who behave like spoiled brats and the kids who love them. Air Bud 1, 2 and 3 Free Willy 1, 2 and 3 M.V.P.: Most Valuable Primate 1, 2 and 3! How is a kid watching these films supposed to gain any insight into real animal behavior from all this stage production? It sickens me. It would be okay if they were actually entertaining, but they are all derivative crap. Race To Space is just lucky its not sequel bound like it forebearers (I hope).
Though James Woods was fine in this film, he is usually much better, his accent was very poorly done.
The meaningless subplot about a NASA supervisor (William Atherton) who is bribed by a rival rocket developer (?) into wilful sabotage of a Redstone rocket was not only ridiculous, it was sad. Is this ham fisted manipulation of the plot supposed to explain away all the other meandering plot threads???? If so, it didnt work. Sad. Poor William Atherton (you probably know him from his arrogant and abrasive TV reporter role in the Die Hard movies), he plays pompous and self-important characters so well he's become typecast in the worst way. I guess its a job, but he can't be still having fun playing the same character over and over again in film after film.
This film was ultimately a big disappointment, it takes way too many liberties with the facts to be legitimately use the "based on a true
story" tag. The only facts from NASA history that this film keeps are that:
1. German scientists/engineers were instrumental in the space race and
2. That a Chimpanzee was launched into space before a man was.
The true story of the first Chimpanzee in space may not have made as good a "Hollywood kids movie" in the tradition of (Free Willy), but it certainly would have been a better film. This is ably supported by the mini documentary entitled "Ham: America's First Space Hero" which is included on the DVD (amongst a surprising number of ineffectual extras). "Ham: America's First Space Hero" is the one bright spot in this otherwise shabby production.
I don't think that children actually enjoy or learn from schmaltzy unrealistic animals movies, let alone from "based on a true story" films that aren't! Perhaps I'm wrong, perhaps you will really enjoy it if you are 11 years old, I'm not, I didnt.
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