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The Astronaut Farmer

Michael Polish

The Astronaut Farmer
The Astronaut Farmer takes the American myth of the rebel dreamer and turns it into something so syrupy that it’s almost impossible to bear. Billy Bob Thornton plays that cliché hero, a rancher who never got his chance to fly as a NASA astronaut and thus has taken it upon himself to build a rocket so that he might live the dream. Naturally, he has an impossibly supportive wife (Virginia Madsen) who believes in him to the point of madness, a son (Max Theriot) who looks up to Dad with awe and befuddlement, and the usual array of bureaucratic naysayers who want to tell him "no.” Twee fabulists Mark and Michael Polish, who wrote, produced and directed, have managed to make Field of Dreams look like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre — where their other films at least had the strength of an original vision, this sad pile of clichés hasn’t a single idea to call its own. It’s tragic to see Madsen consigned to the supportive wifey wife role to which all 40-ish actresses are doomed, just as it’s perplexing to see Thornton doing the antithesis of his Sling Blade days for what I hope was a big pile of money. To be sure, M. David Mullen’s photography is suitably lip smacking and the film would be completely intolerable without his panoramic sunsets and gorgeous landscapes. But this is the kind of film for which bad critics warn people to bring their insulin, not that we approve of such talk. Extras include a fairly lengthy "making of” that blows the "specialness” of the project well out of proportion, a brief clip with astronaut David Scott endorsing the film and a blooper/outtake reel. (Warner)
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