Friday, July 19, 2024

“FLY ME TO THE MOON”

THE STORY – Sparks fly between a marketing executive and a NASA official as he makes preparations for the Apollo 11 moon landing.

THE CAST – Scarlett Johansson, Channing Tatum, Jim Rash, Anna Garcia, Donald Elise Watkins, Noah Robbins, Colin Woodell, Christian Zuber, Nick Dillenburg, Ray Romano & Woody Harrelson

THE TEAM Greg Berlanti (Director) & Rose Gilroy (Writer)

THE RUNNING TIME – 132 Minutes


Monumental events in history will always be fertile ground for adaptation. For those who experienced such a significant observation, it’s a means to tap into nostalgic memories and invite a greater emotional connection to the material. For others, it’s an opportunity to learn more about a place in time that can serve as both an informative and entertaining exercise. This endeavor becomes even more impactful when one chooses to explore not only a major historical development but also showcase an unknown aspect that has not been previously discussed. It’s a fascinating lens to view such material, creating novel methods to mine familiar territory. “Fly Me to the Moon” focuses its gaze on one of the most documented periods of scientific strength with a focus on the unseen machinations that drove a part of the mammoth effort. The results are charming, but they also struggle to escape banality.

The space race was fully ignited in 1960s America, as it tried desperately to be the first nation to fly a manned rocket to the moon and back before the Russians. It’s a difficult task that many know will be historic, yet simple manpower is not the only hurdle that must be overcome. The program is insanely expensive, which has also caused public opinion to drop in favorability and threaten future funding. In order to turn this tide of public relations, government officials decide that an expert is needed to create an effective ad campaign. So enters Kelly Jones (Scarlett Johansson), a shrewd marketing executive from New York who storms onto the grounds of Cape Canaveral with a list of ideas to make the program a more palatable sell. There is some resistance to this new tactic, mainly from Cole Davis (Channing Tatum). Davis, the mission’s launch director, finds this new personality a great distraction from the more important scientific task at hand. The two are combative but soon find a mutual admiration to see this objective completed, which, of course, includes a budding romance that slowly develops.

On the surface, there is an intriguing angle to view such a well-documented incident, though a perspective that brings some novelty to this arena. The rollercoaster of popularity that the program endured has been spotlighted before, but it is an alluring commentary to witness the machinations of how a traditional advertising campaign could be applied to this particular occasion. Rose Gilroy’s screenplay finds some charm in this premise with some occasionally witty banter. However, the narrative can also feel bloated and sluggish, particularly as it not only focuses on the act of landing on the moon but also on an alternative plan to fake the moon landing and use that for broadcasting as a means to guarantee an image of success. There’s plenty of comedic material to mine from this section, but it also feels like an unwanted distraction. This conspiracy, while presented as an underhanded deception that ultimately fails to compare to a real accomplishment, ironically takes away from the momentum of the more compelling storyline. To go down the road that indulges this curiosity of history without adding anything substantial thematically always feels like a waste of resources in the storytelling.

However, even when focused on the central conflict, there’s a glossy sheen that is difficult to completely overcome. While the interplay between Jones and Davis has its moments of endearment, it becomes very apparent that these characters are fairly idyllic without any discernible flaws to make their characters interesting. This is mainly seen in the former, as the film teases a dark past that Jones has been running from that is in constant danger of being exposed. However, this ticking time bomb is never treated as any real threat to her status on the project and, therefore, does not hold much significance to contribute to her character arc. The revelations that expose her do nothing to present a flawed individual, instead elevating her moral standing in a contrived manner. Davis escapes this fate but only because his one-note personality doesn’t give much breathing room to the contrary. The dynamic between these two in a lovers-to-enemies situation isn’t all that is enhanced either by Greg Berlanti’s pedestrian filmmaking, which is just as glossy as their romantic entanglement. What is displayed in a fine effort but ultimately lacks a more arousing aura.

For their part, both Johansson and Tatum do an acceptable job of conveying their own charisma and creating a captivating screen presence. While one wishes for greater complexity with these characters, both actors have a breezy chemistry that may not be extraordinary but fits the overall tone. It is especially apparent with Tatum, whose ability to charm the pants off a coat rack proves to be an invaluable skill here. He is tasked with portraying a character with familiar trappings, but the ease at which he accomplishes this task is still a marvel. The deficiencies in the writing hinder Johansson more, but she is still able to carry a likable presence that makes her tough and determined exterior an entertaining watch. The supporting cast is about on par, with the likes of Woody Harrelson and Ray Romano giving engaging comedic turns. The one highlight is Jim Rash as, the persnickety director hired to oversee the fraudulent space production. Every line delivery is perfectly timed, and he steals every scene he’s in with his flamboyant demands. Even though he is significantly featured in the film’s least successful aspect, whatever success it does find is due to his beaming persona.

It’s quite clear where the ambitions of “Fly Me to the Moon” lie. It may be peering back at an impactful moment in time, but it does not choose a detailed analysis that provides any novel insight. The execution is to exhibit an engrossing tale of quick-witted determination that not only succeeded in technological breakthroughs but also won a complicated battle over public opinion. The film packages this grand venture in a neat, easily digestible box, both a strength for its broad appeal and a weakness in how these results make an impression. The story itself has occasional bursts of absorbing subject matter that dissipates into a fog of banality. The actors are capable of lifting one’s spirits with their natural presence, but it only goes so far. Ultimately, what is provided is a decent romp that uses a specific backdrop to tell a mediocre drama. What pleasures can be found are fleeting in their limited number.

THE RECAP

THE GOOD - The cast has some charming players, with Tatum and Johansson bringing an endearing, compelling chemistry. Jim Rash has a very effective supporting role that is very humorous. The tone is light enough to be enjoyed.

THE BAD - The narrative struggles to find cohesion and becomes sluggish, especially when indulging in plot tangents that distract from the stronger elements. The characters are flat and don't lack complexity.

THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - None

THE FINAL SCORE - 5/10

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Josh Parham
Josh Parhamhttps://nextbestpicture.com
I love movies so much I evidently hate them. Wants to run a production company.

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<b>THE GOOD - </b>The cast has some charming players, with Tatum and Johansson bringing an endearing, compelling chemistry. Jim Rash has a very effective supporting role that is very humorous. The tone is light enough to be enjoyed.<br><br> <b>THE BAD - </b>The narrative struggles to find cohesion and becomes sluggish, especially when indulging in plot tangents that distract from the stronger elements. The characters are flat and don't lack complexity.<br><br> <b>THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - </b>None<br><br> <b>THE FINAL SCORE - </b>5/10<br><br>"FLY ME TO THE MOON"