Movie Review: Apollo 10 1/2: A Space Age Childhood
Apollo 10 1/2: A Space Age Childhood is about Stan, a preteen boy who is average in a lot of ways, but is selected to test the lunar module of Apollo 11 because the engineers accidentally made it too small for adults to pilot. The film stars Zachary Levi, Glenn Powell, Bill Wise, Lee Eddy, Milo Coy, and Jack Black. The film is written and directed by Richard Linklater. The film is streaming exclusively on Netflix.
I was expecting something completely different. I was expecting a high flying wacky adventure of a kid in space. Apollo 10 1/2 is not that. While the conceit is there, the scientists at NASA train and send Stan into space, the film is actually just about growing up in the late '60s around the Houston area where NASA is headquartered.
The vast majority of the action in the film is just lists of why growing up in the '60s was great, dangerous, and formative. That's fine, I suppose, but it's kind of boring to watch a person watch TV or listen to records while a voiceover describes the feelings involved. It's kind of boring to watch everything we know about the '60s repeated back to us. And when it finally does get to the "kid in space," of it all, Stan's lack of enthusiasm is a significant let down. That and Stan's experience mirrors exactly what the actual Apollo astronauts did seems like a waste of a conceit.
This isn't to say the movie isn't entertaining. Several of Stan's family interactions are fun and weird. The "Hey, I lived, didn't I?" style of narration Jack Black gives is often a lot of fun. Though, unlike other Linklater films that rely on characters to create story, he doesn't let us live and breathe in moments before it's onto the next reference or cultural touchstone.
I do love the use of rotoscoping animation, which is a technique of animating over live footage. Linklater has used this in his films to great effect before. Here it does help the parts that are a little more fantastical or gruesome, such as the Red Rover game where an arm is broken. Though, it always looks like it takes a bit away from the movement, like it's a little slow, so it can ruin the experience of it to see a person's nose stay behind when they turn their head.
Overall, the film is disappointing, but entertaining. If you are feeling nostalgia about an era of time when there was quite a bit of winging it when it came to life and safety, this may be the film to watch. It's not that long and the jokes land for the most part. Give it a "moon" shot if you're just looking for something relaxing on your Saturday night.