THE ASTRONAUT FARMER
*1/2 (out of 5)
February 23, 2007
Billy Bob Thornton as CHARLES FARMER
Virginia Madsen as AUDREY FARMER
Max Thieriot as SHEPARD FARMER
Jasper Polish as STANLEY FARMER
Logan Polish as SUNSHINE FARMER
Bruce Dern as HAL FARMER
Studio: Warner Bros.
Directed by: Michael Polish
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
As I was preparing to write this review, I was cannibalizing the cast list from IMDb.com, and I noticed something that was very telling about “The Astronaut Farmer.” At the bottom of the page, there are links to different films that IMDb recommends if you like the one you’re currently surfing. The only film on this list that I recognized was “North.”
Not to twist a knife in an old wound for the Warner Bros. family, but “North” is exactly the kind of film that “The Astronaut Farmer” is like. It’s a movie filled with big names and plenty of anticipation, but one that fizzles under its own weight. It’s overly nice and rams the beauty of the human spirit right down your throat.
Like “Snakes on a Plane,” the title says it all: “The Astronaut Farmer” is about a farmer with dreams of being an astronaut. However, unlike “Snakes on a Plane,” this film isn’t nearly as entertaining. Billy Bob Thornton plays one of his stock characters, bucking the system and trying to be fiercely independent. However, along with trying achieve his dream, he manages to almost wipe out his entire family – literally.
Similar to last year’s “Eragon,” this film felt like it was constructed by a child. The only difference between the two is that “Eragon” was, in fact, written by a child while “The Astronaut Farmer” was assembled by indie golden boys Mark and Michael Polish. Their big break into mainstream is the cinematic equivalent of lasagna – plot ground up with meat, characters that lay there like limp noodles and the whole thing slathered in cheese.
The cast is talented, but with as many excellent actors in the mix, it’s sad to say that no one actually went to the mat for this film. It felt like everyone – from Oscar winners to debut performers – were just picking up a paycheck. No one ever really stands out.
Aside from having “North” in good company as an IMDb recommendation, “The Astronaut Farmer” tips its hand with its own advertising. The tag line of the film is, “If we don’t have our dreams, we have nothing.” The quote is attributed to Charles Farmer, which might have some credibility if he weren’t the main character in the film.
It’s one thing to quote some stuffy critic on a poster. It’s even okay to take him or her out of context. That is marketing, after all. However, to quote the main character in your fictional story just makes no sense. With this mentality, the studios could have marketed “Deliverance” with the quote “Squeal Like a Pig.” This is only one step away from manufacturing a reviewer out of thin air, like Sony Pictures did several years ago.
As if you can’t tell by now, the story for “The Astronaut Farmer” was so uninspiring to me that I am resorting to criticizing the movie’s marketing strategy. I wish I could say this was because I skipped out on the movie and am just winging my review. Sadly, I had to sit through the whole darn thing.
The overbearing and corny message of “The Astronaut Farmer” is to always your dream alive (even in the midst of making your children truant from school, mortgaging your farm to the hilt and dancing your way to divorce court). But we’ve all seen the early auditions for “American Idol.” Some people just shouldn’t have dreams.