A NASA astronaut (Thornton), forced to retire years earlier so he could save his family farm, has never given up his dream of space travel and looks to build his own rocket, despite the government's threats to stop him.
Texan Charles Farmer left the Air Force as a young man to save the family ranch when his dad died. Like most American ranchers, he owes his bank. Unlike most, he's an astrophysicist with a rocket in his barn - one he's built and wants to take into space. It's his dream. The FBI puts him under surveillance when he tries to buy rocket fuel; the FAA stalls him when he files a flight plan - it's post-9/11, after all. His wife is angry when she finds out their bank is initiating foreclosure. Charlie fears failure and decides, precipitously, to launch. Are twenty-first century American dreams just a sign of insanity? Are those who believe in dreamers only fools? Written by
When Farmer is about to launch, Shepard says: "Cleared for launch at zero hour nine a.m.," an homage to the Elton John song "Rocket Man." See more »
For his first launch, Farmer fuels the rocket with kerosene and hydrazine. Either one can be used as a rocket fuel, but both are worthless without an oxidizer. Even combined, he never would have gotten an ignition, let alone a failed launch. See more »
"If we don't have our dreams, we have nothing" Charles Farmer
How do you take an inherently interesting story about a former pilot and astronaut drop out, who launches himself into orbit, and make that story slow, dull, and corny? The Polish brothers (director, writers) achieve that state possibly because the modest $13 million budget is still much more than they ever had and their approach is too reverential to the hero, who by any standards pursues a quixotic goal of launching himself at the risk of jettisoning his family and close friends.
Charles Farmer (Billie Bob Thornton) is determined to achieve his goal in the face of losing his too well ordered and clean farm and his loving, dutiful, and way too accepting wife, Audrey (Virginia Madsen). Thornton, underplaying with that fetching drawl and highly-developed outsider persona, does a credible job of dreaming his impossible dream without appearing unstable or psychotic. Madsen, while always attractive, has such a clichéd part as the long-suffering mate that the character could appear to be even more unrealistic than her husband.
The two young daughters mug for the camera or make too much happy to be credible. Only two characters ring true all the time: Farmer's son, Shephard (Max Thierot), who is cool as a teen mission controller; and an uncredited Bruce Willis, who plays an ex-astronaut friend of Farmer trying to talk him out of a potentially disastrous launch. Everyone else is a caricature, as the film itself is almost a parody of the American dream: It relies on the American tradition of individualism, evenat the expense of those closest to the dreamer. That's an American tragedy.
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