Fly Me to the Moon Review

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There’s been much talk lately about the “Death of the Movie Star.” Star power admittedly isn’t what it used to be. Even the biggest names like Tom Cruise and Dwayne Johnson aren’t guaranteed to sell tickets. Whether or not audiences show up for Fly Me to the Moon, Scarlett Johansson and Channing Tatum prove that the “Movie Star” is still alive. Johansson and Tatum might be modern names, but Greg Berlanti’s film harkens back to a bygone era when glamor and screwball comedy went hand in hand. While the film’s stars are its strength, Fly Me to the Moon also tells an absorbing story that isn’t afraid to be unapologetically romanticized.

Fly Me to the Moon revolves around the Space Race, although the film is no more historically accurate than a Quentin Tarantino period picture. Scarlett Johansson brings firecracker wit to Kelly Jones, a conwoman who finds her calling in advertising. She’s approached by Moe Berkus (Woody Harrelson), a representative of President Nixon, who wants Kelly to sell NASA to the American people. Kelly quickly clashes with Tatum’s Cole Davis, a modest yet outspoken NASA director who doesn’t like being in front of the camera. As Cole tries to get Apollo 11 off the ground, Kelly is tasked with filming a fake moon landing just in case.

Along with JFK’s assassination, the moon landing “hoax” might be the most infamous conspiracy theory in American history. It’s even be theorized that Stanley Kubrick filmed the landing, working his confession into The Shining. While Kubrick is name-dropped in Fly Me to the Moon, directing duties here fall to Lance Vespertine, played by the always-funny Jim Rash. Faking the moon landing is nothing new, but this film takes a clever approach with the real NASA mission occurring simultaneously. Whether or not Apollo lands, Berkus is content with airing the fake footage, believing it’ll be easier to control. Not wanting to cheapen NASA’s accomplishment, Kelly and Cole attempt to pull a fast one on the White House. Thus, the moon landing conspiracy becomes a conspiracy.

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Rose Gilroy’s script, based on a story by Bill Kirstein and Keenan Flynn, feels surprisingly timeless. If the film came out in 1940, one could easily imagine Rosalind Russell and Cary Grant in these roles. Granted, that wouldn’t make sense since the Moon Landing was still almost thirty years away. Even so, the witty interplay between Kelly and Cole is pure Golden Age Hollywood. Johansson and Tatum have instantaneous chemistry, making every carefully crafted one-liner roll off the tongue. Even when some of the more frustrating romcom tropes surface, such as the liar revealed, the charm of these actors can’t be denied.

The film could’ve sent its audience over the moon if not for an overblown runtime. Despite its breezy tone, we start to feel the length as we approach the two-hour mark. Like Argylle, another Apple film with a cat in a supporting role, Fly Me to the Moon has multiple climaxes. Although this is a considerably better movie than Argylle, the first climax feels satisfying enough. We become restless during the final twenty minutes, which don’t have the highest stakes. Regardless, the film does stick the landing, strangely making us care about the fake moon landing just as much as the real one. With the sentiment of a classic romcom and the production values of a 21st-century blockbuster, Fly Me to the Moon is a crowd-pleaser for any generation.

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About Nick Spake

Nick Spake has been working as an entertainment writer for the past ten years, but he's been a lover of film ever since seeing the opening sequence of The Lion King. Movies are more than just escapism to Nick, they're a crucial part of our society that shape who we are. He now serves as the Features Editor at Flickreel and author of its regular column, 'Nick Flicks'.

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