The Astronaut Farmer DVD: Review By Evan "Mushy" Jacobs

A solid film about believing in yourself even when all signs say you shouldn't.
  • OVERALL
    3.5
    GREAT
  • Feature
  • Extras
  • Replay Value
THE GOOD
A solid film about believing in yourself even when all signs say you shouldn't.
THE BAD
Sometimes I wished this movie didn't feel as detached as it does.
THE FEATURE
Charles Farmer (Billy Bob Thornton) is a man with a dream. After leaving flight school because of his father's untimely demise, Farmer has built a rocket that he plans to launch from the barn on the farm that he owns. Surprisingly, his wife Audrey (Virginia Madsen) and their three kids support him. What Farmer doesn't have are many friends in high places. Everyone from the government to people in his local town think he's crazy. He has debt collectors coming after him, he's pulled his kids out of school so that they can help his launch, and he's even courted the media. What goes up must come down and when things reach their fever pitch of bad, Farmer decides to launch in a somewhat off the cuff manner. The results are disastrous and the man almost dies.

After this, Farmer is lost. Without his goal, without anything to believe in "we're just another dysfunctional family," says his wife Audrey. This is where this movie takes an even more fantastical turn. Audrey, through the death of father (Bruce Dern), ends up getting a lot of money from his estate. She decides to give it to Farmer who (in no time at all) manages to rebuild the rocket and go into space. It sadly seems at this point that this movie wasn't paced correctly. It seems like it might have been better to have everything happen sooner, so that we could have journeyed with Farmer a bit longer into the great unknown.

The point of The Astronaut Farmer is to believe in your dreams, and in that regard, this point is made in spades.
THE EXTRAS
How To Build A Rocket

This somber "Making Of" features written quotes by such people as John Glenn and Christa Mcauliffe. We find out that this movie was shot in New Mexico, it had a 30 plus day shoot, and how the movie is an ode to the dream of space travel. We hear from Mark and Michael Polish as they discuss the reasons for why the U.S. went into space, and how the idea of the film is to see space travel as more of an accomplishment than a race. Later, they talk about the Charles Farmer character being inspired by their own father, and we also hear from the other people involved in making this film.

Bloopers and Outtakes

A Conversation with NASA Astronaut David Scott

This three minute clip could best be described as a legitimate Astronaut schilling for The Astronaut Farmer. David Scott was on Apollo 9 and 15, he used the lunar rover and he describes walking on the moon like walking on a trampoline. He states that this movie is a fantasy because what Charles Farmer wants to do is not easy at all. However, he feels that we continue to learn more and more all the time about space, and that in many ways we've really only gotten started.
THE VIDEO
Widescreen Version. Presented in a "Letterbox" widescreen format preserving the "scope" aspect ratio of its original theatrical exhibition. Enhanced for widescreen TVs. This film has a very rich look. The Bros. Polish have chosen to utilize a great deal of imagery to take us into this movie. They mix slow shots with metaphors, but it isn't done in a way that feels forced at all. The compression to DVD from film looks really solid. My biggest bone of contention comes in how completely computer enhanced the rocket scenes look. I know this isn't 2001, I just thought things might look better.
THE AUDIO
Dolby Digital. English: Dolby Surround 5.1. The audio in this movie was really good. The audio has been designed to take us into the mindset of Charles Farmer. With thoughts of losing his home, people questioning how he's raising his children, nobody (except his family) believing in his dream, the audio lets us in on this. In a lot of ways it plays softly, as if Farmer has a good deal of idle chatter happening in his head. However, he never wavers and he believes so completely in what he's doing that one can't help but want him to succeed.
THE PACKAGE
Billy Bob Thornton, clad in his Astronaut uniform, rides toward us on a horse with his family standing behind him. The back gives us a shot of Farmer with his family and his ship, The Dreamer, glistening in the background. There are a few other, tinier cast shots as well. There is a description of what this movie is about, a Special Features listing, a credits list and technical specs.
THE FINAL WORD
Overall, I think that The Astronaut Farmer is a really good movie. It has themes that I can get behind like belief in oneself, setting an example for younger people, how age shouldn't ever stop you from following your dreams, etc. I think I was hoping for more of a straight up narrative. I wanted to see Farmer build the rocket. As I mentioned, I wanted to spend more time in space with him. Quite simply, I wanted something that was going to be more of a major Hollywood movie. What I didn't really think about (well, I thought about it but I didn't think about it too much), was the idea that Mark and Michael Polish had put this film together. Coming from the indie film world and still managing to keep that sensibility, I shouldn't be surprised how much it infused itself within the core of this film.

All in all, if you want a tale that is uplifting and also visually interesting, The Astronaut Farmer is exactly what you've been looking for.

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