Space Cadet Review

Space Cadet
Florida-based barmaid Rex Simpson (Emma Roberts) has always dreamed of going to space. When a friend lies about her academic and professional credentials, she finds herself on NASA’s astronaut training programme — but will the truth come out?

by John Nugent |
Published on

In ‘Deep Space Homer’, a 1994 episode of The Simpsons, the American space agency NASA takes an unusual approach to astronaut recruitment. “We need a fresh angle to get the public interested!” says one NASA official in the episode. “The public see our astronauts as clean-cut, athletic go-getters…They hate people like that.” NASA eventually decide to send a “blue-collar slob” (such as Homer Simpson) to space. Another official pipes up: “I suggest a lengthy, inefficient search — at the taxpayers’ expense, of course.”

That, broadly speaking, is also the plot of Space Cadet, yet another example of the ‘Simpsons Already Did It’ doctrine. Emma Roberts is the Homer Simpson-esque blue-collar slob here — and as if to confirm the cosmic connection, her character is actually named Rex Simpson. She is an alligator-wrestling college-dropout cocktail-waitress Florida-dirtbag who, as a kid, dreamed of becoming an astronaut. Life didn’t turn out that way after her mother got sick (in an oddly earnest subplot for an otherwise determinedly kooky comedy). But Rex never let go of her dream.

Space Cadet

After a school reunion sees her bump into an old-classmate-turned-Elon-Musk-type, who is somehow named ‘Toddrick’ — this is Florida, after all — Rex is inspired to give her unlikely astronaut dream another shot. Unbeknownst to her, however, her ride-or-die Nadine (Poppy Liu) soon sends in a highly-exaggerated application full of falsehoods to NASA, and wouldn’t you know it? Rex makes it into the astronaut programme. Training montages inevitably follow, alongside an ensemble of other wacky characters, including a nervy fanfiction writer (Violet Marie Vislawski), a cartoonish villain (The Daily Show’s Desi Lydic), and a hunky British scientist (Dickon Tarly himself, Tom Hopper).

It feels like yet another very low-rent straight-to-streaming effort.

This is the sort of film that takes the same approach to nerds as The Big Bang Theory, in that it all feels like an outsider’s estimation of what a nerd is (They wear glasses! They like poetry, probably!) rather than a genuine appreciation of them. In fact, the whole film — which is ostensibly a celebration of science, remember — takes a weirdly anti-intellectual stance, seemingly suggesting that you can make it beyond the stars powered purely by vibes. What little science there is in the script by writer-director Liz W. Garcia is laughably basic: Rex wins plaudits and impressed smiles for knowing such obscure concepts as, erm, Newton’s third law — that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

Space Cadet

Throughout, in fact, your credulity will be as stretched as the bending of spacetime around a black hole. Surely, if someone claims to have won a Pulitzer (an award for journalism, by the way), as Rex’s application does, that could be easily verified? Not even the geniuses at NASA thought to do a quick Google? And can you really make it into space after under a year of training? It feels like the sort of dog-ate-my-homework Hollywood-ised science that will no doubt soon form the basis of a lengthy Neil DeGrasse Tyson takedown.

None of this would matter too much if the film was at least modestly amusing or engaging. It is neither of these things. Emma Roberts is at least very charming and unfiltered, giving the role her girl-next-door all, but the dialogue she and her castmates are lumbered with is painfully trite. “Literally all I have to do is be myself,” says Rex at one point, “...and get a colonoscopy!” Well, her methods are unconventional. There are some seasoned comedians in the cast, such as Lydic and Dave Foley, but most of these actors are just not adept at comic timing, or beefing up bad material.

Pair all this with a resolutely made-for-TV visual approach and some ropey visual effects and it feels like yet another very low-rent straight-to-streaming effort. Or, as a character in ‘Deep Space Homer’ put it: “Don't you think there is an inherent danger in sending unqualified, under-trained civilians into space?” To which Homer Simpson aptly responded: “The only danger is if they send us to that terrible Planet of the Apes. Wait a minute... Statue of Liberty? That was our planet! You maniacs, you blew it up! Damn you! Damn you all to hell!”

It purports to celebrate the pursuit of science, but this film may have single-handedly set the space programme back a decade.
Just so you know, whilst we may receive a commission or other compensation from the links on this website, we never allow this to influence product selections - read why you should trust us