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The Astronaut Farmer
DVD disk
Jul 17, 2007 By: Quigles
The Astronaut Farmer order
Director:
Michael Polish

Actors:
Billy Bob Thornton
Virginia Madsen
Tim Blake Nelson

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
In an attempt to capture a previously lost dream, a middle-aged man builds a rocket in his barn with plans to orbit the earth. When the government gets wind of this though, they do everything in their power to keep him down.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
Watching THE ASTRONAUT FARMER, the only reason I could tell it wasn't based on a true story is due to the overwhelming gaps in logic and scientific explanation. Other than that, the film is nothing more than a paint-by-numbers drama with that standard "true story" feel (encouraging people to follow their dreams and such), with a few added quirks that admittedly amp up the entertainment factor quite a bit.

Director Michael Polish (having worked with his co-writing brother on only indie films before now) has a true eye for the bizarre, with many of the visuals packing a wallop in how out of place they appear. The first minute of the film alone features Billy Bob Thorton riding a horse in the desert while wearing a space suit. Things like this add some artistic value to a production that's otherwise fairly straightforward and formulaic.

If there's one thing I loved about this film, it was seeing Billy Bob Thorton actually acting again. When was the last time this guy played something other than a washed-up alcoholic asshole? His character here isn't the deepest of individuals, but Thorton certainly helps make him much more likable than he should've been (due to the undeniably self-centered nature of the determined space enthusiast).

The main problem with THE ASTRONAUT FARMER is that it succeeds more at not being bad than it does at being really good. The directing, acting, and writing are all up to par, but there hardly seems to be an attempt to strive for more than that. When it comes right down to it though, I'd much rather have a film that's perfectly satisfactory than one that shoots for the stars and crashes under its own weight.
THE EXTRAS
Not much. Fans will be disappointed.

How to Build a Rocket: The Making of The Astronaut Farmer (28:21): Some basic interview sound bites and a lot of praise geared towards Billy Bob Thorton and director Michael Polish. There's some quality information to be found here, but you have to search to find it.

A Conversation with NASA Astronaut Dave Scott (2:44): A very brief interview with experience astronaut Dave Scott, confirming who those who couldn't tell on their own just how ridiculous the science behind the film's premise is.

Bloopers and Outtakes (8:43): A lengthy set of on-set gags and actors joking around/messing up lines/etc. The best bit here is when Thorton goes back to his SLING BLADE days and goofs about in Karl Childers mode.
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
If you have nothing against sentimental TV movie of the week fare, complete with tear-jerking sequences and a basic but strongly emphasized message, then this movie should leave you more than impressed. Those looking for something with a little bit more realism and a stronger focus on actual space travel, however, shouldn't waste their time.
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