Space Cowboys (PG-13)
At a time of budget cuts and two embarrassing Mars missions, what a remarkable coincidence that a movie starring Clint Eastwood, that boss-eyed wincing cowboy, and the Space Shuttle, the now-boring Greyhound of the skies, should make it to the big screen. How remarkable that he should be playing a de-mothballed hero who has to save Earth from a Russian communications satellite gone awry, now that our Cold War heroes have all been emasculated. And, oh, it is most interesting that the target audience for these shenanigans should be the AARP and soon-to-reach-retirement baby boomers, two of the most powerful voting blocs in the nation.
Okay, enough cynicism, already. Space Cowboys isn't only a NASA propaganda flick. For example, it has excellent product placement for both Lite beer and Ensure.
Didn't I say enough cynicism, already? Yes I did. So, without cynicism (but, how can one review a movie like this without it?), Space Cowboys is a macho adventure flick about four Air Force hotdoggers grounded by a vindictive commander (James Cromwell, sporting the worst Southern accent I've heard in a decade) when the National Aeronautics and Space Administration was formed in the late '50s. Forty years later, when a Russian communications satellite goes kaflooey, the head of this merry band, Frank Corvin (Clint Eastwood) is called out of retirement by his old Cromwell nemesis to fix an engineering problem so obsolete and antiquated that only senior citizens can solve it. In response, Corvin demands that his buddies "Hawk" (Tommy Lee Jones), now a stunt pilot, "Tank" (James Garner), now a Baptist minister, and Jerry (Donald Sutherland), now a roller coaster designer, get to tag along on the junket to the stars.
Overall, Space Cowboys, is a perfectly acceptable Hollywood movie. There are some cool special effects, and if you like the squinty-eyed, lock-jawed, overwrought masculinity of Clint Eastwood, well, you do. I'm not going to talk you out of it. The supporting cast is just fine, and there are some funny lines and scenes to keep it interesting.
It is everything else that is missing. Characterization? Well, if you think macho posturing and juvenile behavior turned septuagenarian is characterization, it might pass. Pacing? The glacial pacing of the first third is almost compensated for by the the last third, but then the technical mumbo jumbo ("what about this balonium, commander?" "put it in the schmalzifier, son") of the space cowboys almost kills that. Plot? Your typical Americans-against-the-rest-of-the-world-and-their-obsolete-technology; nothing new there. Music? The opening orchestral number is composed by Eastwood himself. It is ponderously entitled "Espacio." Need I say more?
The only big revelation of Space Cowboys is that the age-old male fantasy of drinking-swearing-fighting-and-getting-all-the-babes only gets more ridiculous with old age. I'm all for great adventures for the silver-haired set, but you might hope for a little self-reflection (nope), a revamping of sexist stereotypes (forget it), a refining of libidinal fantasies (no chance) or even a re-appraisal of jingoistic paranoia (some hope).
I guess there's nothing wrong with a little propagandistic eye candy, strategically released this election year and costing the GNP of a small island nation. As the bad boys of Hollywood turn old-age pensioners, we're going to see more and more of these flicks. You might as well get used to it.