Space Cowboys (2000)

SPACE COWBOYS, both Clint Eastwood's new movie and the season's 
most appealing anti-blockbuster since CHICKEN RUN, is a relaxed,
barely serious, and impossibly appealing astronaut adventure about 
four one-time trainees from the Fifties who finally get their shot 
(ha!) forty years later.  Clint Eastwood, Tommy Lee Jones, Donald 
Sutherland, and James Garner play the fast-training fogies-- due to 
impending failure of Cold War-era Soviet "bird"-- and they're every 
bit as good as expected.  (Eastwood and Jones are the old hotheads, 
Sutherland the Lothario, and Garner the good-natured grouse.)  The 
other prominent presence is William Devane's equally testy Flight 
Director.  He doesn't have enough scenes-- mostly appearing in the 
second half-- but he's a world more watchable than James Cromwell's 
Project Manager and Person-Who-Put-That-Chip-On-Eastwood's-Should-
er-All-Those-Years-Ago.  (Cromwell is a *sturdy* presence, sure.  
What he lacks is enough charisma to make his shared scenes with 
Squinty as compelling as they oughta be.)  Marcia Gay Harden is al-
so on hand, as some sort of technical person and unnecessary love 
interest to Tommy Lee Jones. 

Eastwood also directs and with a characteristically unhurried hand, 
affording the actors ample acting room and keeping a damper on any 
propulsive pacing.  For the longest while, it's an absolutely won-
derful change of pace, especially in comparison to the over-the-
head-hitting style of *other* summer movies.  Regrettably, the di-
rector's easygoing advantage evaporates when the story kicks into 
higher gear.  Adequate amounts of momentum-- not to mention just 
plain ol' melodrama-- are left *out* of the movie, perhaps daringly 
so, but ultimately resulting in a string of curiously under-affect-
ing action scenes.  Mind you, screenwriters Ken Kaufman and Howard 
Klausner share some of the blame.  Their script, while exemplary in 
allowing its aging characters to poke fun at themselves, leaves way 
too many questions unanswered at the climax.  Such as an even *re-
motely* alarmed reaction on the ground.  Or the curious non-mention 
of a space-shuttle rescue team, whether such a thing exists or not.  
Or, my non-fave, a bunch of cryptic zero-G sequences featuring the 
assembly and disassembly of stuff.  Oh well... at least it's one 
summer movie that's safe to take both kids *and* parents to.  And 
that's saying an awful lot.  (Rated "PG-13"/129 min.)
Grade: C+

Copyright 2000 by Michael J. Legeros
Movie Hell is a trademark of Michael J. Legeros                    

Originally posted to triangle.movies as MOVIE HELL: Septuagenarians

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Copyright 2001 by Michael J. Legeros -Movie Hell™ is a trademark of Michael J. Legeros