1 February 2007 | SnakePlizzken
Field of Dreams meets October Sky
I saw this wonderfully charming family movie tonight at a free preview in Washington, DC.
The Polish brothers and the Warner Brothers, taking a cue from Walden Media, have hit the family movie sweet spot with this fun, engaging film. I'm giving it an 8 on the basis of pure solid family entertainment value.
(If this movie were a car it would probably be a Toyota Camry)
At the start of the screening, Billy Bob Thorton proudly (and accurately, IMHO) characterized this film as a feel-good Frank Capraesque popcorn flick - the sort of film that would have been on the "A" side of a double bill back in the days of his youth.
Billy Bob and Virginia Madsen do terrific jobs with their characters. I think the timelessly beautiful Ms. Madsen is particularly effective as Farmer's patient, loving, and somewhat exasperated wife.
(and if I were Stephen Colbert interviewing Billy Bob Thorton, I would probably ask this question - "Virginia Madsen: hot co-star, or *the hottest* co-star?").
The story and the arc of the film bring strong elements of "Field of Dreams" and "October Sky" to mind; but absent the mysticism of the former and the somewhat dysfunctional family dynamics of the latter. As a large, tasty helping of pure western Americana I don't doubt for a minute that this film will be a huge hit in Japan.
This movie pays light homage to films like "The Right Stuff" and "Apollo 13." Space fanatics, rocket scientists, and other members of the pocket-protector crowd might experience a few "oh please, you've got to be kidding" moments, but because of its charm, likable characters, and strong acting, this movie requires a lot less disbelief suspension than a film like, oh I don't know, let's say "Armageddon," for example.
Speaking of baby-boomer asteroid wranglers, I was also pleasantly surprised to see Bruce Willis in a small, but key supporting role. I think it's really great when skilled, immensely watchable actors lend their talents to bright young film makers. At the Q&A after the film it was revealed that Bruce took the role as a favor to the Polish brothers and that he essentially worked for free. It was nice of him to do that.
All of the other members of the well-casted supporting ensemble (including some young members of the Polish tribe) delivered solid performances as well.
I won't give you a synopsis of the film here (others are better than me at that sort of thing); but I will tell you that I plan to take my wife and 4, 7, and 12 year old kids to see this film for the pure joy of watching a fun, happy, and slightly quirky movie together as a family.