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
During the filming in and around Santa Fe, New Mexico, Billy Bob Thornton did a "One stop promotion tour" as he put it, for both his album Hobo, and The Astronaut Farmer at the Santa Fe bookstore, Borders. See more »
Carnival rides use electric motors connected to huge generators to turn them. When the Farmers have the carnival ride on their property we see a large overhead view of the carnival ride but there is no generator or electrical cord anywhere. The cord is obviously buried and the generator is behind the camera. See more »
A mediocre movie with an interesting plot, but clichéd by the corny portray of the perfect family and the paranoid pursuit of your dreams - the American dream.
The movie tells the story of Charlie Farmer, a farmer and space engineer who left his career as astronaut after the death of his father to take care of the family farm. Since them, he has been building a space rocket in his barn, with the help of his family, and the support of his friends and town-dwellers.
The story is original and it has heart, but is badly developed, unfocused, and without a specific element to turn the flaws of the script in something meaningful. We know that you cannot build and launch a rocket from your barn, as it is technically impossible, as well as many of the things that happen in the story regarding the rocket. However, this would have not mattered if other elements of the story had been well placed and balanced. A better drawing of the leading character, to start with, would have helped.
The use of clichéd elements regarding family and follow-your-dream-no-matter-what, even if destroys your family and leaves them homeless, doesn't help. We all love crazy dreamers, but if you want one to enamor us in the 21st century, the script and the character have to have more than wondrous ideas that are above any other human value. That's the perfect depiction of selfishness, however doesn't present it as a defect. The depiction of the town life and the solidarity links that a small community establish among all its dwellers, was one of the things that I liked the most, because they are real and believable.
Two other things kill the movie. The first is its tempo, which makes the movie very slow; I thought that the first half of it was just plain boring, and not engaging at all. The second is Billy Bob Thornton's unfelt plain performance as he doesn't believe what he's playing and, therefore, the viewer neither. In fact, if you compare his "acting" with his real person in the interview in the DVD extras you'll see that Thornton was just repeating his dialogs not acting. Although it could be otherwise, that Thornton is just incapable of being himself in front of a camera. I thought that his acting abilities were wasted in the movie. The same can be said of Bruce Willis in his cameo appearance.
On the contrary, Virginia Madsen is wonderful as Charlie's wife Audie, and plays her character with conviction and sensitivity. Max Thieriot as Shephard, Jasper Polish as Stanley and Logan Polish as Sunshine are terrific as Charlie's sons, and Bruce Dern is good as Charlie's father in law. The supporting actors are all good, and offer a funny portray of small-town characters.
The cinematography is wonderful. Especially evocative and magic are the scenes shown at the start of the movie with the initial credits. Also beautiful and very charming are the scenes of the country fair, full of flavor and warmth. However, most of the time, the movie looks and feels like a normal TV movie, like those produced by the dozen, just with better cinematography and a better cast.
The poster of the movie is a beauty, though.
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