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The Astronaut Farmer
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Reviews & Ratings for
The Astronaut Farmer More at IMDbPro »

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100 out of 134 people found the following review useful:

A Great Rocket Ride

9/10
Author: manoymano from United States
22 February 2007

This is a wonderful movie. Simple and elegantly made. There are many layers to this movie that haven't been written about on this site. More like frustration and negativity seem to fuel these message boards. Cynicism is alive and well. The knit-pickers can make a nice lint blindfold if they choose not to see this movie for what it is: entertainment. Like Spielberg, Capra and many others the Polish brothers have arrived with a classic piece of storytelling.

The Polish Brothers have depth and while it seems it's their glossy turn to make a Hollywood movie they continue with their wit and edge, try and spot "The Last Supper" scene. Look for the homage to "The Right Stuff", "Apollo 13" and "Armageddon". The son is named Shepard after the astronaut. And I assume that the daughter is named Stanley after Stanley Kubrick since the Grandpa is named HAL ( 2001 : Space Odyssey). There's definitely an undertone for the hardcore Polish brothers fans. The dialogue alone is worth the price admission. Of course you'll need to suspend your disbelief for a story that seems so far fetched, a man launching himself into space, although I have read of 2 rocket men who have attempted this same idea-- but every time you walk into a movie theater you have to surrender some logic. Just the fact it's called a "movie" should tell you something before you purchase the ticket.

It's unfortunate that most reviewers feel like victims and have a need to share their boredom. I can imagine this movie not doing good with men who have lost their inspiration or desire. My brother in fact didn't like this movie because he said it wasn't possible. I don't remember him having this much trouble with "E.T." or "Forest Gump". My brother gave up his dream of being a writer, he now teaches high school drama. I debated with him over the fact this movie is also metaphorical and it's about everyones dream. That is why the rocket is named "The Dreamer" because everyone is dreamer, or has a dream they're building. This movie really shook up my brother and his dislike of this movie should motivate him.

I enjoyed this movie so much. I was able to bring my dad, kids and husband and that in itself is a triumph and the filmmakers should be awarded for that.

9 out of 10 stars, only because I am keeping one star for my dream.

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83 out of 115 people found the following review useful:

It's not a comedy, I swear, but somehow it still works.

9/10
Author: recinutah from Salt Lake City, Utah
30 January 2007

When I first heard there was a movie in which my buddy Billy Bob builds a rocket in his barn, I thought for sure it must be a comedy or some sort of spoof or slapstick. Then I saw the trailer, which portrayed the film as serious drama. Given this background, I must say, I had my doubts when I went to an advanced screening in Salt Lake City last night. I need not have worried. The movie was in fact serious (with some great laughs on the aside) and yet it still worked.

Admittedly, the follow-your-dreams-no-matter-what genre has been around since the dawn of time, but Astronaut Farmer manages to stand out nonetheless. The timeless truths are all the more poignant set against the backdrop of such an impossible dream. The problems Charlie Farmer confronts are in many ways similar to problems we all face. Themes of love, sacrifice, and faith make this movie easy to relate to. It is a metaphor of being true to yourself and following your dreams, not just another sappy you-can-do-anything-you-set-your-mind-to knockoff. I recommend it to anyone who has ever wanted something out of life that seemed out of reach or that others scoffed at.

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64 out of 85 people found the following review useful:

Fun story, but don't take it too seriously

8/10
Author: Lady_Arwyn from United States
17 February 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Billy Bob Thornton plays an ex-astronaut trainee, now a Texas rancher, who never made it to space, so he builds a rocket in his barn. When he is almost ready and tries to buy rocket fuel the government steps in, meanwhile he's about to lose his farm to the bank.

Bruce Willis has a small role as the best friend from the astronaut program who *did* make it into space, and JK Simmmons is good as the head of the FAA. Bruce Dern's role as Fermer's father-in-law is disappointing. For a while it's unclear as to exactly who he is in relationship to the family.

The Astronaut Farmer pretty decent, if you can suspend your disbelief a little. The science of launching a rocket from an old wooden barn without burning down the barn is rather, ah... questionable at best. However, this is *not* a movie about science, it is a movie about people.

This film is pretty heavy on the relationship angle, my 9 year old daughter was bored during large sections, and getting ancy. Finally there were some good action scenes and she got interested again. I'd say children under the age of 12 wouldn't be very interested in this movie, but there isn't anything inappropriate. No sex, drugs or violence, and very mild language.

If you're just going for the entertainment value, it's wonderful. It has some great laughs, especially a dig on the CIA's ability to locate weapons of mass destruction. And it has a hilariously accurate running commentary on small-town life. If you've ever lived in a small town (I mean a really small town) it is a riot.

The Astronaut Farmer will probably remind you of the 1979 made-for-TV family-night mini-series "Salvage 1", about a junkyard owner who builds a rocket from parts in his salvage yard. This one is far better, even if it does have enough similarities to make you wonder if it's a smarter, cleaner remake.

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59 out of 84 people found the following review useful:

Field of Dreams meets October Sky

8/10
Author: SnakePlizzken from United States
1 February 2007

I saw this wonderfully charming family movie tonight at a free preview in Washington, DC.

The Polish brothers and the Warner Brothers, taking a cue from Walden Media, have hit the family movie sweet spot with this fun, engaging film. I'm giving it an 8 on the basis of pure solid family entertainment value.

(If this movie were a car it would probably be a Toyota Camry)

At the start of the screening, Billy Bob Thorton proudly (and accurately, IMHO) characterized this film as a feel-good Frank Capraesque popcorn flick - the sort of film that would have been on the "A" side of a double bill back in the days of his youth.

Billy Bob and Virginia Madsen do terrific jobs with their characters. I think the timelessly beautiful Ms. Madsen is particularly effective as Farmer's patient, loving, and somewhat exasperated wife.

(and if I were Stephen Colbert interviewing Billy Bob Thorton, I would probably ask this question - "Virginia Madsen: hot co-star, or *the hottest* co-star?").

The story and the arc of the film bring strong elements of "Field of Dreams" and "October Sky" to mind; but absent the mysticism of the former and the somewhat dysfunctional family dynamics of the latter. As a large, tasty helping of pure western Americana I don't doubt for a minute that this film will be a huge hit in Japan.

This movie pays light homage to films like "The Right Stuff" and "Apollo 13." Space fanatics, rocket scientists, and other members of the pocket-protector crowd might experience a few "oh please, you've got to be kidding" moments, but because of its charm, likable characters, and strong acting, this movie requires a lot less disbelief suspension than a film like, oh I don't know, let's say "Armageddon," for example.

Speaking of baby-boomer asteroid wranglers, I was also pleasantly surprised to see Bruce Willis in a small, but key supporting role. I think it's really great when skilled, immensely watchable actors lend their talents to bright young film makers. At the Q&A after the film it was revealed that Bruce took the role as a favor to the Polish brothers and that he essentially worked for free. It was nice of him to do that.

All of the other members of the well-casted supporting ensemble (including some young members of the Polish tribe) delivered solid performances as well.

I won't give you a synopsis of the film here (others are better than me at that sort of thing); but I will tell you that I plan to take my wife and 4, 7, and 12 year old kids to see this film for the pure joy of watching a fun, happy, and slightly quirky movie together as a family.

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42 out of 61 people found the following review useful:

Waste of a perfectly good billy Bob

1/10
Author: weltanscha@hotmail.com from not Cleveland
12 July 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I think you can pretty much gauge whether you're going to like this film by deciding whether you think these lines (Farmer's thoughts during a funeral) are good:

There are no stop signs up there. There is no defining space. We have always defined our space. A wall here, a room there. A hallway, a road. We have this way of dividing our space until it equals a direction. We even created a space for the dead. Space is a difficult thing to grasp.

To me, they read just like Bush speaking off the cuff, where he's got an idea he wants to take a stab at but doesn't bother trying to (or perhaps can't) put the stab into coherent form. Here the writer clearly wanted to connect the funeral with outer space somehow, and just figured any old combination of words would do.

I really liked the part during the credits, when Farmer is on the Leno show. That seemed so real that I almost thought Billy Bob Thornton himself had ridden a rocket into space. I'm assuming that was improvised. Good job, Billy Bob! I also like what Farmer said to the guy appraising his property.

But that's it. To me this is a textbook example of a movie make by people who think that movies are commodities. I could go on and on—there are examples of bad movie throughout—but here is just a small selection:

- I've got this theory that a movie gets to feed you one impossible to swallow thing and still be good, or great, even. But that thing has to be mitigated as much as possible, and you don't get to include a second impossible to swallow thing. I'm gullible enough to buy the premise of one guy sending himself into orbit. But with just his 15 year old son for technical help? I don't think so. I'd prefer they had a team of engineers, but if it's gotta stay within the family, at least make the kid older, maybe a 22 year old engineer. And have Farmer consult with some technical people occasionally. It would take hardly anything away from his achievement. And if you're going to sell the idea of 1.5 people building a huge rocket, you've got to convey the incredible amount of work involved. They *say* he works on it a lot, but jeez, show us a montage of him working, or him being too exhausted or sleepy to move, or *something*.

- Why am I supposed to like this guy? He puts his family at risk of complete financial ruin, after seeing what that did to his father. He rents (or buys) a carnival ride to put on the property for the kids to play with, when there is literally no money for groceries. He throws a brick—hard--at his friend who works in a bank. The first time he launches, his wife, in their house and unaware, is so close that the windows explode all around her. He doesn't warn the crowd hanging out outside his ranch, comes within feet of killing them, then doesn't express regret or warn them the second time. He carelessly loses his wedding ring and doesn't give a rip or spend time looking for it (and he has a surprising amount of free time), even though it bothers his wife. And he yanks his kids out of school for a month to help him; Tell me those little girls are going to be of any use beyond bringing him sandwiches and lemonade. And there's talk about how what he's doing is for the whole family, but he seems to be in it completely for himself. For example, he's not shown taking any photos to share later.

- Getting access to fuel is the main thing holding him back (the other being permission to launch). When he gets the idea for an alternative fuel, he tells his son, "we got all the stuff right here in the barn," by which apparently he means a rocketful of fuel components, because you never see anything delivered. Then, to get fuel for the second launch, he uses the tired guy-dressed-like-him ploy to send *all* of the people surveilling his place on a wild goose chase, so the tanker can just drive right in unnoticed. Sure, I believe that would work just fine.

-When they're building the second ship you hear an audio montage of technical talk, to convince you that they're, well, doing technical stuff. They slip in an overly-obvious "Oxygen could last three times longer than needed. But let's not put that to the test." Smooth, writers Polish! Then, in the event, Farmer stays up in orbit *way* more than three times the planned amount, and does just fine.

- Virginia Madsen (who overacts in the film, BTW) brings home money from the bank to build the second rocket, apparently in cash, in a paper bag, like she stole it. And in the span of one gesture, the light switches from midday to sunset, something you can't avoid noticing. Why didn't they fix that?

-Tell me that crash wouldn't have killed Farmer really, really, dead, no matter how good his capsule protection was.

- I'm tired of films with a technical aspect making tons of gross errors that would bother an average 8th grade science student. Why the writers don't consult an 8th grade science student to patch that up is beyond me, but I'd bet that if I were to point the errors out to them, they'd say something like "This isn't a film about science. It's a film about how 'Families is where our nation finds hope, where wings take dream '" (which is an actual Bush quote, not a typo.) Well, it can be about families and dreams and *still* not yank people out of their suspension of disbelief.

- Tom

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47 out of 73 people found the following review useful:

Feel Good Movie

8/10
Author: officewhore from United States
8 February 2007

Saw this last night at an advanced screening. This was a really nice feel good movie for the entire family. I brought my 6 year old daughter and she thoroughly enjoyed it. The thematic content I believe was appropriate for someone as young as her, but I might not bring a younger child to this movie. There were about 5-6 swear words, but she didn't even pick up on them. Billy Bob Thornton did a great job in this movie. Bruce Willis' cameo really was nice. The movie was slow in a few parts. The grandfather's role wasn't totally clear to me, and some of the comedic parts seemed a bit forced. Overall, I enjoyed this movie quite a bit.

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38 out of 59 people found the following review useful:

Very uplifting and entertaining!

8/10
Author: ArthurKingoftheBritons from Canada
4 February 2007

I just came back from an advanced screening of this film in Toronto and I really did not know what to expect. I had a free coupon for it and really had no idea what the film was about. Although being skeptical at first I must say that this is an amazing film. It's humorous, it's engaging, and in general a real feel-good movie, with solid performances by everyone including the child-actors. Even though the story may seem outrageous and unrealistic, the emotions evoked are completely genuine and make this film one of the greatest surprises for me this year. I definitely recommend this film for everyone as it demonstrates how dreams define who we are and should never die.

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54 out of 92 people found the following review useful:

Just embarrassing

2/10
Author: bernie-122 from Sydney, Australia
25 March 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I only considered this because I am a big fan of Billy-Bob. I expected the film to be full of bad science, but I wasn't prepared for the torrent of non-science and anti-science I got. Certainly, filmmakers have licence to take liberties to some extent, but I haven't seen anything this ludicrous since Spielberg had ET making a radio transceiver out of a Speak-and-Spell.

This film is really a venture into nauseatingly Spielbergesque schmaltziness which is guaranteed to make a profit by unfailingly attracting the same gullible folks who gush over the disaster film where the world got destroyed, but fortunately, the boy and his dog were saved.

Launching a rocket from a wooden barn isn't just stupid. The stupidest person on the planet would know that the barn would be incinerated, along with all other buildings on the property. In real rocket launches, the pad is deluged with millions of gallons of water during lift-off to contain the damage to the massive reinforced concrete structure.

Any liquid-fueled rocket must be supported by a gigantic cryogenic plant, which was nowhere in evidence.

Any launch failure resulting in the rocket tipping over would most certainly not culminate in it being launched horizontally, to go skimming along the ground for a few miles. What you would get is a massive fireball at about 10,000 degrees F.

The haphazard re-entry firing results in a landing just a few miles from the launch point. How convenient. NASA could only predict splashdown within a 2000 or so square mile area.

There are so many more, but I would get ill if I went on. This film was made by people who know nothing about science for people who know nothing about science. There are certainly enough of those, going by the proportion of gushing reviews seen here.

I haven't even gone into how those same people don't seem bothered in the least by the fact that Charlie's "dream" is just so selfish and inconsiderate. There's nothing noble about pursuing your dream no matter how much it may damage those around you (literally and figuratively).

There is no way artistic licence can justify portraying science this bad. I believe even Spielberg wouldn't have touched this one, and that's saying something. I give it a 2, only because Billy-Bob managed to get through it without throwing up once.

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37 out of 60 people found the following review useful:

An astonishing film, easily one of the year's best

9/10
Author: NotSureifthisis7734 from United States
24 February 2007

It's clear a lot of critics don't know what to make of this movie. It's best described as mostly a fantasy with naturalistic elements. The emotions are real, they are strong, and the film is always grounded in the earth. But you are never quite sure where it is going. It will veer into farce, then melodrama, then social commentary, and back again. It seems to be taking place in the present day, yet not quite: the sensibilities are from the 60s, the entrepreneurial we-can-do-it spirit from the 80s, and the despair from the 00s. It is strange, and it is dreamlike, and at times it seems to barely make sense, but it all works. The audience I was with was enthralled and almost all of them stayed through the end of the credits -- a good sign indeed.

I can imagine what the high-concept presentation must have been like: "It's just your typical save-the-farm family drama, only dad is a . . ."

"Don't tell me. A space alien," yawns the studio-head.

"Well, close, but not quite. He's a former astronaut who may be a nut case, we're never quite sure."

The studio-head is a little more interested. "And he;s planning to blow up the world?"

"No, though a lot of people think he is."

The head of the studio thinks about. "I think I like it. Throw in some cute kids and we've got ourselves a movie."

I'm being cynical, of course, and this is not a cynical movie. There is not a false note in it in fact, the music is perfect, the cinematography is first-rate, the casting is superb (watch for Bruce Dern looking very similar to Doc Brown in the Back to the Future movies). While inspirational, follow your dream movies usually don't work for me, this one does, it has such an amazingly goofy charm that only the stiffest of film critics could resist it (and alas, according to that well-known movie review site, as I write this just under 40% don't get it.) If this movie in not on most 10-best lists at year-end, it is going to be one heck of a year.

I don't know if the film is going to do well. Early box office looks weak, but word- of-mouth may help. See it in a theater now if you are at all hesitant. This one will be remembered.

One final note: something like this story could actually happen in a generation or two, assuming humanity doesn't destroy itself. That spaceship-in-the-barn tale will make a great movie when it does. This story makes a great movie now.

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33 out of 61 people found the following review useful:

Family movie wins again!

10/10
Author: postalincopa from United States
14 February 2007

This movie proves that Hollywood can make great family movies. I just saw an advanced screening of this movie in AZ and must say it was fantastic. The Polish brothers (writers, producers, directors, stars, fathers of stars) and Billy Bob Thornton were in attendance for a Q&A after the film and were quite interesting. They said this movie cost $12 million dollars to make and was done as an independent. The movie shows how a family can come together to accomplish a task and achieve a dream even when the full weight of the Gov. comes against them. No matter which side of the political aisle you are on you will find the timely shots at the government funny. This movie will hit all your emotional buttons. Support the INDEPENDENT film makers! GO SEE THIS MOVIE! By the way the two little girls who star as Billy Bob's kids are the daughters of the Polish bothers.

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