Feb. 23, 2007
Billy Bob Thornton, Virginia Madsen, Bruce Willis, Bruce Dern, Tim Blake Nelson
Michael Polish, Mark Polish
Warner Bros. Pictures
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The Astronaut Farmer
By Belinda Elliott
CBN.com Daily Life Producer
- The countdown is over for The Astronaut Farmer, which launched in theaters on Friday. Starring Billy Bob Thornton (Armageddon, Bad Santa, Friday Night Lights) and Virginia Madsen (Sideways, Firewall, A Prairie Home Companion), with an appearance by Bruce Willis, the film is a feel-good flick that aims to inspire people to go after their dreams.
The movie follows Charles Farmer, a second-generation rancher who dreams of going to space. Farmer served as a military pilot before entering NASA’s space program, but was forced to drop out of the program to save the family farm. Not wanting to abandon his dream of launching into space, Farmer spends years (and every penny he has) building a rocket in a barn on his 300-plus-acre Texas ranch.
Supporting his dream of space travel are his wife, Audrey, teenage son, and two young daughters. It seems that the Farmers are a model family, although somewhat offbeat. They get along well, are involved in each other’s lives, and enjoy spending time together.
However, when Farmer pulls his kids out of school to help with the rocket, and his wife learns that the bank is about to foreclose on the ranch due to the family’s mounting debt and lack of payment, tempers flare. His wife begins to question the cost involved in achieving his dream.
His would-be space mission is further complicated when he seeks to buy a large quantity of fuel and attracts the attention of the FBI and FAA who seek to shut him down before his rocket ever leaves the ground.
The film is a fun ride that achieves just the right mix of playfulness and inspiration, with a few tense moments thrown in to get your heart racing. However, people who enjoy dissecting a film for plot weaknesses may find ample material here.
The story is a great one; however, some scenes are just not that believable. But remember, this is the movies—where everything is possible.
The other problem with this film, in my opinion, is the overall message that the movie sends. I agree with the film’s tagline that, “If we don't have our dreams, we have nothing.” I also agree that you should not give up on a dream too easily regardless of what obstacles you may face. However, Farmer follows his dream to an almost ridiculous extent, eventually putting his wife and children in harm’s way to accomplish his mission.
When does following a dream become merely negligent selfishness? Should we still insist on achieving our desired goals even if they could potentially jeopardize the well-being of those we love? The film seems to indicate that these risks are okay to take because the bigger goal is to finish what one has started and never give up. I tend to disagree.
For the most part, the film is very family-friendly with no nudity, sex, or violence. The bad language is kept to a minimum, though there are a few unnecessary expletives. There are also several jabs at the government and the Bush administration.
With that said, there is much to love about this film. The cast members are all suited perfectly to their roles, and they all give a dazzling performance. Thornton seems at home with this wholesome, family-man role. Madsen brings such a mix of realism and charm to her character, that it is hard to believe she isn’t truly a Texan rancher’s wife at heart.
The child-actors also do a superb job. The youngest, played by the 4-year-old daughter of the film’s co-writer and producer Mark Polish, is absolutely adorable.
The movie is a treat visually as well. Filmed in New Mexico, scenic shots of gorgeous sunsets and sweeping plains abound.
Overall, The Astronaut Farmer is a fun journey, even if you find yourself muttering under your breath, “This could never really happen.” Chances are you will also catch yourself cheering for Farmer to accomplish his mission.
The bottom line? Don’t get caught up trying to scrutinize every detail; just sit back and enjoy the ride.
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More articles by Belinda Elliott on CBN.com
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