Adam Sandler's 'Spaceman' Has No Gravity

Directed by Johan Renck

Starring Adam Sandler, Carey Mulligan, Kunal Nayyar, Lena Olin, Isabella Rossellini, Paul Dano

Photo courtesy of Netflix

BY Rachel HoPublished Mar 1, 2024


In the year 2024, no one denies Adam Sandler’s abilities as a “serious” actor. Most recently etched in the filmgoing conscious is, of course, Uncut Gems, but take it back to Punch-Drunk Love and even The Wedding Singer — the Sandman has always had a flair for the dramatic.

Comedy remains Sandler's modus operandi, so when he does don the drama mask, it feels thoughtful and wholly intentional, which is what makes his latest film, Spaceman, even more disappointing than it would for another actor.

Known primarily for his work on the excellent limited series Chernobyl, Johan Renck's latest adapts Jaroslav Kalfař's novel Spaceman of Bohemia, about a cosmonaut, Jakub (Sandler), on a solo mission to study “intergalactic dust” on the edges of the solar system. As the isolation and general strain of his work starts to unravel Jakub’s mental state, he begins having wicked dreams and momentary flashbacks to his failed relationship with Lenka (Carey Mulligan). Along with the support he receives from mission control on Earth, Jakub finds a voice on the ship that seeks to help him along: a voice that comes in the shape of a hairy spider who Jakub names Hanuš, and who sounds a whole lot like Paul Dano.

Visually, Spaceman brings to mind Andrei Tarkovsky's Solaris, and although it seems clear enough that the film is meant to satirically consider the same existential explorations plaguing Kris Kelvin, any attempt at philosophical musings falls flat. In fact, the entire film feels like it's threatening a good time with familiar references and a talking arachnid, but because it never achieves this feat, we're only left to question if maybe we missed the point entirely.

Given what a talented cast Renck had at his disposal, it's a shame the material doesn’t match. The women in particular, Mulligan and Isabella Rossellini as Jakub's commanding officer, are truly wasted in the film. Incredibly underused, Rossellini barely registers, while Mulligan's Lenka is remarkably underdeveloped. The entire cast, including a bemused Dano and an effectively frayed Sandler, mine what they can from Colby Day's script — but, ultimately, even their formidable performances can't override the vapid nonsense.

There's an aimlessness in Spaceman that's almost impressive given the zero-gravity setting. Nothing is ever ventured across 107 minutes, and certainly nothing is gained.


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