Space Cowboys (2000)

Directed by Clint Eastwood
Written by Ken Kaufman & Howard Klausner
Starring Clint Eastwood, Tommy Lee Jones, Donald Sutherland, James Garner, James Cromwell

My Advice: Wait and Rent It.

Frank Corvin (Eastwood) and his crew (Jones, Sutherland and Garner) were all ready to be the first Americans in space. But thanks to the head burrito (Cromwell), a chimp went in their place. Suffice to say, there was no joy in Mudville that day. Now it's forty years later, and the four have drifted apart, having to deal with watching others go where they thought they were headed. But there's a problem--a Russian comm satellite has a problem and is about to lose its orbit. Who's the only one who can fix it? Frank, of course. But he'll only go if NASA lets his team get back together and do the job together.

This film was meant to be a popcorn flick in a sea of event movie flotsam, and for the most part, it succeeded. It even strives for more points by not taking the easy way out and becoming essentially Grumpy Old Men in Space. Not to say that it's not a fun ride. The four elders play their parts well: Sutherland's half-blind lech is amusing, so is Garner's out-of-shape Baptist minister. Eastwood and Jones are at each other's throats very convincingly, each still blaming the other for the chimp incident. And there's even a line of demarcation where fun and games are over, and the four of them, like the professionals they're portraying, know when to get serious and do the job. It's because of this that the film deserves to find its target audience, older moviegoers who remember when they dreamed of seeing the Earth from space.

But with as much charm as the film manages to exude, there are problems that got in the way of it becoming a solid matinee recommendation. I'm not talking about any holes in logic you might perceive, popcorn films can be forgiven those. It's mostly this: I wouldn't have minded the fact it clocked in at over two hours, if I had felt completely satisfied with the outcome--or the editing. It seemed as though someone had chunked a good twenty minutes of film, which just so happened to include every bit of closure except for two of the main characters. A number of subplots and relationships are left dangling but with just a little work they could have been wrapped up. It seems like such an obvious mistake from a director who's given us solid quality before, I wonder if WB didn't pull an Avengers and pull out a machete. Who knows?

The effects are groovy, the characters are likable, and the overall feeling is fun, so I'm not dismissing the movie outright. I guess I'm just growing weary of getting drawn into films that don't know seem to have any clue as to how or where to end. This is just another in a growing list of films that stumbled in the third act. But regardless--if you're a big fan of films in space, you should catch a matinee. Otherwise, wait and watch it at home.

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