Published Feb 01, 2000The only real difference between The Astronaut's Wife and any TV movie-of-the-week is that Wife has no commercials. You certainly miss them. At best this sci-fi thriller is a schlocky homage to Rosemary's Baby, replacing Satan with an ambiguous alien intelligence, and Roman Polanski's subtlety with first-time writer-director Rand Ravich's heavy-handedness. Spencer Armacost (Johnny Depp) is an astronaut who loses consciousness, along with partner Alex (Nick Cassavetes), while in earth's orbit. Shortly after Spencer returns to his wife Jillian (Charlize Theron) - a Florida schoolteacher with "Rosemary" short hair - Alex dies mysteriously, followed by Alex's wife (Donna Murphy). Soon Jillian becomes pregnant with twins, and then finds out that Spencer's recent NASA physical tests conflict with his earlier ones - that Spencer isn't Spencer anymore, and that Jillian's twins aren't of this earth.
The movie's biggest problem (besides the predictable scares and false alarms) is that the script launches immediately into the space disaster without giving us time to know or care about the characters. We're supposed to believe that Spencer and Jillian are the most perfectly connected and loving couple in the world (we learn this from awkward exposition) yet the most profound, personal thing either says to the other is "I gotta pee." Their characterisations are so bland, Depp and Theron can only sleepwalk through their roles; Depp puts more energy into his laughable white bread Southern accent than into actual acting. Ravich's camera never knows where to go or what to do, hovering between overblown slow-motion sequences and pointless overhead shots, and other neat tricks Ravich probably learned in film school. The trite story just isn't worth it.