Astronaut Review

Retired civil engineer Angus Stewart (Richard Dreyfuss) has long dreamt of becoming an astronaut. He gets his chance when billionaire entrepreneur Marcus Brown (Colm Feore) launches a lottery for one lucky winner to join the first passenger flight to space. But will Angus make the grade?

by Ian Freer |
Published on
Release Date:

20 Mar 2020

Original Title:


Astronaut is probably not the film you think it is. The logline — a senior citizen enters a lottery to join the first commercial flight into space — suggests a movie where a grouchy but loveable septuagenarian is the oldest cadet in the class, does comedy Zero G tests and proves an old dog can teach high-tech young ’uns new tricks as he realises a long-held dream. Perhaps admirably, writer-direct Shelagh McLeod’s feature debut mostly avoids such obvious beats but in so doing delivers a slow, strangely low-key affair, lifted only by Richard Dreyfuss’ neatly judged performance.

Dreyfuss is Angus Stewart, a retired civil engineer who is being farmed out to a senior citizens home by his reluctant daughter (Krista Bridges) and more certain son-in-law (Lyriq Bent). Encouraged by his grandson (Richie Lawrence) and as a means of escape, Angus makes a last-gasp entry into a lottery to win the only civilian seat on a two-week foray into space funded by billionaire Elon Musk-Richard-Branson-Jeff Bezos-alike Marcus Brown (Colm Feore). It’s a sluggish start, marred by a stereotypical view of old age fuelled by comedy pensioners and whimsy. Yet even after the 40-odd minutes it takes to get into the space race to join the flight of a lifetime, it fails to step up; the world of both the TV lottery show (hosted by Whose Line Is It Anyway? stalwart Colin Mochrie) and the space flight itself feels cheaply realised and unconvincing.

The film’s central conflict comes when Angus, drawing on his knowledge from his old job, believes the runway is not reinforced enough to support the space craft and butts heads with Brown to postpone/cancel the mission (how the supposed experts have missed this is mindboggling.) Again, in a story about the power of dreams and ambitions, it’s a mundane proposition to drive a movie, a feeling reinforced by the visually drab look of the film. Dreyfuss does what he can to inject some twinkle into proceedings without mugging — his scenes with Lawrence are charming — but the overall mood is soporific. As an actor, Dreyfuss’ first trip into space came at the end of Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, filled with awe and wonder. Astronaut could have done with a little bit of that.

Astronaut doesn’t have the budget or cinematic ambition to deliver on its premise. Despite the best efforts of Richard Dreyfuss, it reaches for the stars and misses by a mile.
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